Overseas Workers’ Welfare Association (OWWA)

Brief: 

The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) is the lead government agency focused on the welfare of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) and their dependents. The OWWA is attached to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

The problem addressed by the campaign: 
  • OWWA was created because of the constitutional mandate to guarantee the protection of the rights of OFWs and the promotion of their interests and well-being.
  • An organization was needed to raise money and distribute welfare and benefits to OFWs, who often had little protection or resources available in their host country.
  • OFWs require protection and help with repatriation, which can be a very difficult process both economically and socially. 
Solution: 
  • The OWWA has provided benefits and services to duly registered members to promote the welfare and well-being of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and their families.
  • The wide range of benefits and services are subject to qualification requirements and availability of the agency’s funds. For a US$ 25 membership contribution, a member and/or his family is entitled to medical, education, training, disability and death benefits.
  • The agency also offers scholarships programmes for the qualified OFWs and their beneficiaries/dependents. A maximum of PHP 14,500 per course is given for a short-term (up to two years) vocational or technician’s course under the Skills-for-Employment Scholarship Program.
  • Under the Education for Development Scholarship Program (EDSP), there are 150 college scholarships awarded to OFWs dependents to pursue four to five year baccalaureate courses.  PHP 60,000 a year shall also be provided to OFW beneficiaries. Under the OFW Dependents Scholarship Program, OWWA gives financial assistance of PHP 20,000 a year to poor but deserving dependents if an OFW is earning not more than US$ 400 a month.
  • Qualifiers are entitled to a baccalaureate or associate’s degree in a state college or university.
  • Other services of OWWA include on-site assistance and services, social services and family welfare assistance.
Impact: 
  • Due to previous programmes, interest among returning OFWs for entrepreneurship has grown. To meet this demand, the president launched the 2 billion pesos (US$ 47.4 million) reintegration programme during Migrant Workers Day on 7 June 2011. This programme is a joint venture of the DOLE, OWWA, Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) and the Development Bank of Philippines (DBP). Much of the funding will go to small business loans.
  • The recession triggered a significant loss of jobs for OFWs. This prompted the Philippine government to provide Filipino domestic helpers government-sponsored training for the OFWs to become call-centre agents. The programme, funded by the OWWA, is part of the government’s vocational scholarship programme of OWWA and reintegration for OFWs.
Why has it worked?: 
  • OWWA provides a comprehensive support network and services. This preparation even includes pre-departure orientation and education programmes. Thus, the organization is so proactive that it deals with the issues of Filipino expats before they become expats.
  • The OWWA uses recognition awards to promote sharing of best practice ideas around optimizing the gains of migration and generation of employment opportunities.
  • It is highly accessible, with a flat-rate membership fee, and membership is encouraged through all Filipino consulates and embassies overseas.
Conclusions and Recommendations: 

Levels and types of migration are affected by ease of repatriation. In effect, it is always easier to get people to move for employment purposes if they know they know they can easily return and find their way back into the economic and social life of their country. This happens not just at a company level, but also for countries at large. Recognizing this in advance can help create an environment that supports freer flow of labour across national boundaries.

Foundational Issues: 
Public and private constraints on mobility
Level of Collaboration: 
Level 2: Collaboration across organizations within a country
Region: 
Asia
Economic and political context: 

Philippines:

  • Population: 94.3 million (2010 EST.)
  • Unemployment rate: 7.3% (2010 EST.)
  • GDP: US$ 351.4 billion (2010 EST.)
    • Remittances sent by OFWs to the Philippines contribute to the country’s economy, with a value of more than US$ 10 billion in 2005.  OFW remittances represent 13.5% of the country’s GDP. In 2008, overseas Filipinos sent US$ 15.9 billion worth of remittances to the Philippines, up from the US$ 14.4 billion in 2007, and US$ 13 billion in 2006. In 2009, despite the global recession, OFWs sent about US$ 17.3 billion in remittances to the Philippines.
About the Author(s): 

The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration or OWWA is an attached agency of the Department of Labor & Employment (DOLE). It is the lead membership welfare institution that serves the interest and welfare of member-overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).