Belying nurse surplus with unfilled 20,000 foreign jobs—a slanted view of RP’s unemployment problem

by

After Ruth Padilla, a commissioner of the Professional Regulations Commission (PRC) announced there are 400,000 currently unemployed nurses in the Philippines, Jackson Gan, the vice-president of the Federated Association of Manpower Exporters and his organization belie the excess of nurses because there are unfilled “20,000 job orders for nurses in the Middle East, Singapore, and Europe.” Inquirer (09/01/08, Uy, V.)

By numbers alone, 20,000 jobs Gan speaks of don’t come close to 400,000 jobless licensed nurses that Padilla is referring to. Even if these foreign jobs are filled, there remain 380,000 licensed nurses who aren’t employed. Many more nurses are scheduled to finish their courses and take the boards, adding more numbers in the jobless pool. So how can Gan prove his point?

On Gan’s admission many nurses are shifting to other jobs in computers, call centers, medical transcriptions, or other employment unrelated to their education out of desperation. Is this not a sign of an oversupply? The existence of foreign job offers abroad doesn’t negate the reality of joblessness at home, the place where Filipinos must be in the first place.

Speaking for the manpower establishment (also maybe for the POEA as well,) whose main role is to fill in workers, Gan sounds condescending in saying that our nurses aren’t qualified for the job. This isn’t entirely true— knowing that they went through standard accredited study and were licensed as professionals by the Philippine Regulations Commission (PRC.)

Almost everyone knows there is slowing in hiring coincident to the way-ward increase in the number of nurses in the supply pool. Contrary to Gan’s assertion, Filipino nurses want to go abroad even in countries other than the United States, but there are reasons other than the prejorative label of “not being qualified” that are keeping them at home

The lack of two-year experience in a 250-bed hospital is the reason Gan cites for the unfilled foreign jobs. But this is simplistic and misleading for the turn-over of nurses in big hospitals is brisk. Because of the US back-log (not enough visas are available,) many nurses who already passed the NCLEX are forced to wait for at least 2 years, just the right time for them to comply with the experience requirement.

It is more likely therefore, the 20,000 foreign positions aren’t filled (if truly they exist) is because the jobs offered aren’t attractive enough— the workplace can be “unsafe,” the terms of the contract may be unacceptable, there can be family issues that remain unresolved on immigration, or the offer of going abroad poses difficult cultural and language barriers that is hard to meet. Above all, many applicants may not have the cash to finance their foreign applications forcing them to work and save first before pursuing their plans abroad.

Reported in the news before, Spain wants Filipino nurses, but job-seekers need to learn Spanish—a task that has nothing to do with the nurse’s ability to care for patients in the hospital. Why will they learn Spanish when they are even struggling with the English language which takes them too long to master? Similarly, Belgium also needs nurses, but they have to speak in Belgian. Saudi Arabia may have jobs, but horror stories abound from nurses and overseas foreign workers (OFW’s) who worked in countries where the treatment of women and foreigners are different. There are scary reports of maids in Lebanon and other parts of the Middle East who commit suicide because of maltreatment, rape, isolation, and intolerable working conditions.

Gan and people with his mindset need to simply look around to say what they are saying is lopsided, a cheap letdown against the nurses, themselves helpless victims of inept education and labor planning. He speaks from the vantage point of an astute labor-peddler whose interest is mainly to deploy workers in jobs without much regard of the welfare of Filipinos braving the uncertainties and hardships in the world outside. =0=

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