WB: Digital tech can help labor exporters manage migration

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AMID the rising need for workers by aging countries, digital technology could help migrant sending countries better manage the costs of migration, according to the World Bank.

In a briefing on Monday, Ndiamé Diop, World Bank Country Director for Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand, said digital technology can allow Filipino talents to accept work from abroad while staying home with their families.

This will address not just the need for workers in countries—including the rapidly aging ones —that are in need of them, but also allow countries like the Philippines to avoid brain drain in certain sectors like information technology.

“It will allow many workers to provide their services from a distance, in some cases even without leaving the Philippines. There’s a huge potential in the patterns of immigration and the way in which it contributes to destination countries but also to home countries. I’m pleased the Philippines has made it a top priority,” Diop told reporters.

Digital technology, Diop added, could also work both ways for the Philippines in terms of getting access to foreign talent. Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) Director Catherine Sy said it could also pave the way for the government to get access to Filipinos abroad in terms of upskilling workers in the country while staying in their host countries.

“Some occupations, you have to provide the service physically. But for all professions and occupations, the location doesn’t matter anymore, you can provide the services anywhere. That’s the new element that tech brings to migration,” Diop said.

Technology can also allow the country to better leverage migration for development as migration continues to suffer from major challenges, according to the country’s recruitment sector.

In the forum on migration on Monday, Marc Capistrano of Staffhouse International Resources said the major challenges of sending workers abroad have been saddled by slow processing and the language proficiency of workers.

Capistrano said that while the Philippines has been sending workers abroad for decades, the processing of these workers is very slow and considered the longest compared to other migrant-sending countries.

In terms of language proficiency, Capistrano said, the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) level 7, which is required for migrant workers, was still difficult to attain for Filipino applicants abroad.

Apart from these, Capistrano cited the recognition of the educational attainment of Filipino workers as another challenge. This has only been remedied recently by the addition of two more years in Philippine education.

He added that some requirements of host countries also prevented them from filling the global demand for workers. Some of these have to do with skills and work experience.

Capistrano cited as an example carpenters who are often employed in the informal sector, and thus would not be credited with their work experience abroad.

Migration and aging

In April 2023, with more countries expected to age, the World Bank sees the demand for migrants rising as aging countries would require migrants to boost their economies.

In the World Development Report 2023, the World Bank said this is a unique opportunity to make migration work better for economies and people.

The World Bank said the share of working-age adults will drop sharply in many countries. Apart from demographics, climate change is also expected to fuel the increase in the number of migrants.

The World Bank said countries like Spain, with a population of 47 million, is projected to shrink by more than one third by 2100, with those above age 65 increasing to 39 percent from 20 percent of the population.

Countries like Mexico, Thailand, Tunisia and TĂĽrkiye may also need more foreign workers because their population is no longer growing.

Meanwhile, climate change, the World Bank said, has led to the tripling of the number of refugees over the last decade. Further, about 40 percent of the world’s population—3.5 billion people—live in places highly exposed to climate impacts.