Global financial crisis will hit army of overseas Filipino workers

MANILA, October 13, 2008 (AFP) – There are few countries in the world where you will not find a Filipino worker. Even in tiny Iceland, one of the countries hardest hit by the financial crisis, there were 1,411 at last count.

At any given time, about 10 percent of the Philippines’ 90 million population is hard at work — outside the country.

For years this vast army of workers has managed to keep the Philippine economy afloat with their remittances but all that could change as the global financial crisis starts to bite.

Last year they sent home 14.4 billion dollars, equivalent to 10 percent of the Southeast Asian nation’s gross domestic product. The government had hoped that figure would exceed 15 billion dollars this year.

But if the financial crisis continues to deepen, as many economists believe will happen, the impact on the Philippines could be severe.

“Overseas employment has been the Philippines’ escape valve for years,” Ben Diokno an economist and former budget secretary told AFP.

“I expect that valve will start to narrow sharply as a result of the global economic recession.”

He warned: “Just imagine if a significant number of these workers were to come home,” where a third of the l