1 out of 10 OFWs financially broke: study

by Macel Ingles, ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau

Posted at Nov 11 2011 10:43 AM | Updated as of Nov 12 2011 08:14 AM

OSLO - A microfinance non-governmental organization in the Philippines revealed in a study that one out of 10 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) ends up broke even after years of working abroad to provide a better life for their families.

The study made by the Social Enterprise Development Partnerships Inc. (SEDPI) also showed that most or around 80% of Filipinos working abroad overspend on investments on houses and home improvements. 
Also, 8 out of 10 do not have savings and are unable to prepare for their retirement or return to the country and are caught in a cycle of debt and poverty.
The study also showed that only 5% save a fixed amount regularly and about 15% save monthly but not with a fixed amount. 
These worrying statistics was told to ABS-CBN Europe at SEDPI's financial literacy seminar for Filipino workers in Oslo, Norway last November 5.
According to Vincent Rapisura, CEO of SEDPI, it is a sad phenomenon that OFWs do not enjoy financial stability despite years of working abroad.
Pressures from family members for regular remittances and investing in idle assets (such as houses) have contributed to bankruptcy and financial insecurity for most OFWs.
He also told the participants of the seminar, mostly those working as au pairs in Oslo that it is important to set boundaries when it comes to sending remittances. 
"Ginagawa kayong insurance ng inyong pamilya di ba?" he asked.
He also has three pieces of advice to Filipinos who are working abroad or are planning to work abroad. 
First, they must make their goal for going abroad very clear and discuss this with their family. If the goal is to send the children to school, the OFW should be able to go home after this goal is achieved. Another is to learn the discipline of saving money and lastly, acquire insurance cover to prepare for eventualities. 
He also told the participants that unless they have these things, they should think twice before they send all their money back home.
Rapisura said that Filipinos working abroad should set aside up to 3 to six months of their monthly salary as emergency savings and should hold a 10-year insurance and health cover for themselves to ensure that they are protected from economic shocks.
It is also important, he said, for OFWs to be realistic about their financial position and set a financial goal in order to plan for financial security in the future.
Asked if these harsh advise had led to economic backlash from families back home, Rapisura said that on the contrary, families in the Philippines learn to understand the predicament of their relatives and has ironically led to closer family ties.
When ABS-CBN Europe asked some participants on the relevance of the seminar to their life situation, some seem to have taken the information to heart.
"Every month nagpapadala ako ng 1,000 kroner sa pamilya bilang tulong sa pamilya ko dahil nandito ako sa abroad. Pero kung hihingi pa sila ng sobra, siguro may limit na," Carmi Derillo told us. 
She also said that she learned how to save money from the seminar.
At 23, she came to Norway to work as an au pair and hopes to save enough to open a business venture in the Philippines.
Jennifer Rarugal, 24 who also works as an au pair also revealed that she has to struggle with her budget at first since she wanted to provide for her family's needs.
"Noong una kasi noong pumunta dito sa Norway, iniisip ko lang kasi ang pamilya ko, na makapagpadala ako, masustentuhan ko sila especially sa food, kung may nagkakasakit,  gusto ko mapagamot agad. (Pero sa seminar), 'yong isa sa naiintindihan ko na kailangan pala meron kang perang ipon para makatulong. Paano ka makakatulong kung sarili mo wala ka naman pera di ba?," she added.
The seminar was organized by the New Filipino Working Group (NFWG) in Oslo to provide guidance to the au pairs in managing their money.
Jean Langerud, coordinator of the NFWG said that they hope the seminar will be able to help Filipino workers in Oslo especially the au pairs to attain financial stability.
"It is a challenge to us Filipinos, on how to manage our money especially for those who suffer from a culture of deprivation. We tend to spend on things that we were not able to afford before and that can lead to overspending and inability to save for the future," Langerud added.