KASAMA Vol. 19 No. 4 / October-November-December 2005 / Solidarity Philippines Australia Network

Culture of Migration

Since the 1970s, the Philippines, a country of about 7,000 islands peopled by diverse ethno-linguistic groups, has supplied all kinds of skilled and low-skilled workers to the world's more developed regions.

As of December 2004, an estimated 8.1 million Filipinos — nearly 10 percent of the country’s 85 million people — were working and/or residing in close to 200 countries and territories.

In the last 30 years, a “culture of migration” has emerged, with millions of Filipinos eager to work abroad, despite the risks and vulnerabilities they are likely to face. A nationwide survey of 1,200 adult respondents in 2002 found one in five Filipinos expressing a desire to migrate.

More recent surveys carried out by Pulse Asia in 2005 found an increasing percentage of adult respondents — 26 percent in July and 33 percent in October — agreeing with the statement, “If it were only possible, I would migrate to another country and live there.” Interest in leaving the country is not limited to adults. In a nationwide survey in 2003 of children ages 10 to 12, 47% reported that they wished to work abroad some day. Sixty percent of children of overseas foreign workers said they had plans to work abroad.

The development of a culture of migration in the Philippines has been greatly aided by migration’s institutionalization. The government facilitates migration, regulates the operations of the recruitment agencies, and looks out for the rights of its migrant workers. More importantly, the remittances workers send home have become a pillar of the country’s economy.

The Philippines’ ascent as a major labor exporter in Asia and worldwide is based on various factors. When large-scale labor migration from the Philippines started in the 1970s, the “push” factors were very strong …

MPI LogoExtracts from:
The Philippines’ Culture of Migration”, Maruja M.B. Asis, Scalabrini Migration Center–Philippines, Jan 2006.

The whole of the paper is available on the Internet at