Is Working In The Philippines Still Financially Viable?

Is Working In The Philippines Still Financially Viable?

Can our OFWs come home?



The story of the OFW is tried, known and true—difficult and lonely, but rewarding because it usually means providing a better life for a family back home in the Philippines. The payoff, of course, is missing out on birthdays, holidays, recitals and even casual dinners.


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Millions of OFWs still choose to earn in dollars, yen and dirham rather than “rough it out” and earn in the Philippines. But really, is that more because of necessity at this point or a simple inability to let go of this “speaking in dollars” culture?


We spoke with three individuals, each from different backgrounds and asked them three simple questions—and their answers might surprise you.


From a fresh graduate that studied in Australia

Victoria was born and raised in the Philippines, but decided to pursue her college degree in Australia. Now finished, she faces the crossroad of coming back home to start her career or stay abroad.


Do you think it’s still viable to be financially independent in the Philippines?

It depends on your lifestyle.


What do you mean?

I think it is possible to live within your means, but people have to be realistic with what you can and cannot spend on. I think most people are spending more than they earn because our parents raised us in cushy environments, so our expectations are different.


Given the choice, would you come back to the Philippines?

At the moment, I would not as I don’t have capital yet.

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From someone that settled in the United States

Meanwhile, Rebecca is in her mid-thirties, is a mom of two and lives in San Francisco. She spent some time working in the Philippines, but inevitably rooted her life in the United States.


Do you think it’s still viable to be financially independent in the Philippines?

For my profession (recruiting), I don’t know if it’s financially viable to live independently in the Philippines. I guess in the very basic level, pwede, but not to the extent that [my family and I] can “enjoy life.”


Why not?

Granted that the cost of living is different in the Philippines, earning potential is also capped. When I worked there in 2006, I think I was only earning P10,000. That’s only US$250! You can’t even pay for your phone bill with that [laughs].


I don’t know what I would be earning now if stayed, but after being in the US for about 10 years, I think considerably more ang earning potential ko here. [In the Philippines,] I think cost of living keeps going up, but compensation doesn’t necessarily stay on target.


If it was feasible, would you come back?

Yes! Especially if I would be earning what I’m already earning, but spending in pesos [laughs].


From someone that settled in the Philippines

On the other hand, Ana is in her late-twenties. She graduated from a university here in the Philippines but took her masters in Europe. She spent some years working in Singapore, but now works for one of the country’s most respected production agencies.


Do you think it’s still viable to be financially independent in the Philippines?

Independently, as in by yourself, if you have a regular job? Really depends on the job… Kaya naman if by yourself, I think.



Some jobs have benefits that [help] allow you to provide for yourself. But if you have a family or if you support others and [are a contractual worker], it’s less viable—you live hand-to-mouth, which I don’t believe is really “independent.”


Having worked here and abroad, where do you think is better? Why?

Well, working abroad earns me more money—that’s the state of our economy; we aren’t able yet to provide as much income to our workers. So in terms of finance, better abroad (for normal workers. As in, hindi ka CEO, ganyan). But of course, working abroad also has cultural implications and I think those are important considerations in terms of considering a “better” place to work.


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According to the National Wages and Productivity Commission, the non-agricultural minimum wage in the NCR is currently P512 per day. Jollibee’s one-piece chicken meal is P82. A train ride is P12. A bus can cost up to P70.


That leaves you with P348 for the rest of the day—and you still have rent, utilities and two other meals to worry about. Suddenly it seems like a drink with friends is out of the question.


These numbers in mind, it really doesn’t seem like staying in the Philippines is a good idea. Not unless you have help and definitely not if you have a family to think about. Maybe it is still about necessity and not about a culture that glorifies foreign currency-earners.


But hey, there’s nothing like coming home to your actual family. So, it really depends on one thing: What’s the price you’re willing to pay? Or more accurately: What are you willing to sacrifice?



Art Cara Gamo


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