More government support for displaced OFWs pushed

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FILE – Filipinos returning from Qatar abroad. Photo by DFA

The World Bank on Friday urged governments in countries like the Philippines to extend more financial support and immunization coverage to returning migrant workers who have been displaced by the COVID-19 pandemic so they can strengthen their capacities. subsistence at home.

Citing the Philippines, India and Vietnam, the World Bank’s senior economist on migration and remittances, Dilip Ratha, told a webinar that “these countries are experiencing significant return migration from their homes. own people – they are overwhelmed, they also need support. “

In its latest migration and development note released this month, the World Bank noted that the Philippine government helped repatriate Filipino workers last year when their host countries cut jobs as they were struggling to contain COVID-19.

“The government had allocated $ 52 million for displaced OFWs (Filipino Overseas Workers), including one-time emergency financial assistance of $ 200 for each worker displaced by the pandemic and an additional $ 8 million in aid. education for university-level dependents of affected OFWs. This is aside from $ 17 million for the repatriation of OFWs, medical assistance and the return of people who have died due to the pandemic, ”the World Bank noted.

Low-skilled migrants

Moving forward, Ratha said governments should also ensure that migrant workers and their families have access to vaccines to better protect them from the disease.

Ratha said that vaccination of migrant workers’ households should “be part of the policy package, especially those who are in the informal sector, those who are less skilled migrants and their families in their countries of origin.”

Despite the recent reimposition of lockdowns in the host countries of some migrant workers as well as in their countries of origin, Ratha said the shift to contactless, digital and formal remittance channels accelerated by the pandemic would support the transfer of money to their beneficiaries.

Ratha noted that last year, global remittance flows only declined 1.6% from the pre-pandemic level of 2019, especially as the tougher times of COVID-19 forced migrant workers to send more money home.

Remittances continue to grow

The World Bank expects remittances to increase 2.6% this year, Ratha said, although he said the recurrence of COVID-19 posed a significant downside risk for those inflows.

In 2020, the Philippines remained the fourth largest recipient of remittances in the world behind India, China and Mexico, with $ 34.9 billion equivalent to 9.6% of gross domestic product.

Although 0.7% lower than in 2019, last year’s actual inflows exceeded earlier World Bank expectations that remittances would decline to $ 33.3 billion from $ 35.2 billion. dollars in 2019.

Sending money to the Philippines was one of the cheapest in the region.

In addition, Ratha said that some large host countries have shown better-than-expected economic performance despite the pandemic thanks to their countercyclical fiscal policies, which bodes well not only for their national economies but also for migrant workers. that they welcome.

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