I recently visited Israel and I’ve met many overseas Filipino workers there working as caregivers. I’m impressed how industrious and hardworking they were! I’m equally impressed by the wide variety of odd jobs they have taken up to earn an extra buck – from babysitting, selling jeans, giving manicures to peddling vegetables from door to door! If you look hard enough, a thriving, informal economy is flourishing among Filipino caregivers in Israel.
Meet Ate (‘Elder’) Conchita. She goes door to door selling ‘talbos ng kamote’ (sweet potato leaves). Believe it or not, she earns about US$50 to $70 dollars, enough to pay for the shipment cost of the ‘balikbayan’ box she’s planning to send back home, a box of full of goodies filled with Spam, towels, shoes and everything else to be sent for her family back in the Philippines.
Meet Clara. She rushes from her main job taking care of an elderly invalid to babysitting her employer’s grandchildren in the evenings.
Meet Josie. She works outside Jerusalem and on the weekends she goes to nearby outlet stores, finds the latest bargains and sells the latest jeans and other fashions to other Filipinos with a slight markup in the price. By the way, she also let me know that she provides excellent manicure and pedicure nail treatments on the weekends.
These Filipino caregivers are earning extra dollars so they can remit more money back to their families but they’re also helping propel the Israel economy from the extra money they’re earning from this thriving, informal economy they have created.
The Philippine economy would have benefited if Conchita, Clara, Josie and the thousands of Filipino caregivers in Israel were conducting their small businesses and creative, informal economy back home. However, the Israeli economy is the one reaping from all the benefits – the skills of the Filipino caregivers, the care they provide to the Israeli elderly population and the creative entrepreneurship and growing, informal economy they’ve created in Israel.
So is the Philippine policy of exporting labor and sending Filipino caregivers to Israel a productive, economic solution for the long-term? I don’t think so.