Since the early 1900s, successive waves of Filipinos have migrated to other countries in search of employment opportunities.  Overseas migration can be traced way back to the 1920s under American colonial rule, when Filipinos worked in pineapple plantations in Hawaii.  The movement of agricultural workers later expanded to California, and to Washington and Alaska to work in fish canneries.

Successive waves of Filipino migrants followed in the 1960s, which were largely professional workers.  They were Filipino nurses, doctors, medical technicians who filled in skill gaps in the United States, Canada and other European countries.

Widespread migration

In the 1970s, the phenomenon of overseas contract workers (OCWs) emerged.  Filipinos began to leave the Philippine in even larger numbers to fill in labour shortages in rich and industrializing countries as construction workers, nannies, domestic workers, nurses and entertainers.  Filipino men filled in labour shortages in the construction industry of the Middle East.  Filipino women, on the other hand, took care of children and performed domestic work in booming economies in the Middle East (e.g., Saudi Arabia, Kuwait) and the Asia-Pacific (Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia) to allow women in these economies to work outside the home.

Labor Export Policy

The increasing revenue that these migrant labourers provided to the Philippine economy through foreign exchange remittances, as well as persistent, widespread unemployment and underemployment, have provided a strong incentive to systematize the export of Filipino labour.

Under Marcos, the labour export program (LEP) was established, and entrenched or enhanced under successive governments including the government under Rodrigo Duterte.

Roots of Migration

Forced migration is a product of extreme poverty, underdevelopment and joblessness in the country, rooted in the uneven distribution of land and wealth that has benefited a handful of rich landlords, big business, cronies, and multinational companies.  This system started under Spanish colonial rule, was entrenched under American colonial rule and continues to this very day.

For more information on the history of Filipino migration, please contact us.  We offer education sessions to raise awareness of issues faced by Filipino migrants and the Filipino people.