OFWs Are the Third Biggest Group of 'Highly Educated' Migrant Workers in First World Countries

OFWs deserve more recognition.

Just when we thought overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) couldn’t deserve more praise, new data has popped up showing that they do.

OFWs reportedly account for the third-largest group of highly educated migrant workers in OECD member countries. This is according to 2016 migration data from Statista, which was first reported by the World Economic Forum (WEF) in December 2020.  

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development refers to 37 countries, mainly from Europe, Australia, and North America, all of which are high-income economies.

Of the 120 million migrant workers in these countries, only 30 to 35 percent are highly educated. Of that amount, Filipino migrant workers account for the third-largest population of highly educated migrants. This refers to OFWs who have received vocational or academic training.

According to Statista, of the 3.5 million Filipino migrant workers, 1.89 million or 53.3 percent of workers are considered highly educated. Only India and China surpassed the Philippines’ population of highly educated migrant workers with 3.12 million and 2.25 million workers, respectively.

The number of highly educated OFWs exceeded that of the other top talent exporters: U.K., Germany, Poland, Mexico, and Russia. The Philippines is the only country from Southeast Asia on the list.

Mexico represents the biggest population of migrant workers, followed by India, China, Poland, the U.K., the Philippines, Germany, Romania, Morocco, and Turkey, but not all of these countries account for highly educated workers.


Photo by OECD.

According to the International Labor Organization, many OFWs occupy positions in the healthcare industry, which is crucial considering the ongoing pandemic. And almost half of all OFWs work in the U.S.A. The PH-U.S.A. relationship is considered one of the most important migration corridors in the world, after the Mexico-U.S.A. corridor and before the Poland-Germany corridor.

What does this tell us? It tells us that Filipino talent is a valued part of international economies, and Filipinos continue to be attracted to the quality of life abroad. OFWs in OECD countries were only 1.9 million in 2000, but it has since jumped by 83.1 percent in 2016. Of the 3.5 million OFWs in OECD countries in 2016, 62 percent were women. 

And of the entire Filipino workforce that can be considered “highly educated,” 14.3 percent chose to find better opportunities in the OECD countries. This mass exodus of skilled workers is a phenomenon called "brain drain."

While these numbers bode well for OFW families seeking better lives, it is also indicative of the number of Filipinos who can’t find the same opportunities and quality of life at home.

And what does that say about the Philippines?

OECD member countries include Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, U.K., and the U.S.A.

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Anri Ichimura
Section Editor, Esquire Philippines
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