Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Exodus of Talent 1: Economics

Brain Drain. That’s the word. Somebody had coined this when they noticed that the best and brightest of the Philippines are moving out of its shores for the perceived greener pastures on foreign soil. Teachers, nurses, engineers, doctors, lawyers, artisans, tradespeople… you name the profession, chances are, they are leaving (or have plans of leaving) the country in droves. And the sad thing is that they are the cream of the crop, often the best we have to offer.


Why indeed?

The reasons are obvious, I think, but we need to be reminded sometimes.

First and the most important reason is the fact that economically speaking, the current paygrade system in the Philippines is way off the mark in compensating the work that is tendered. Can you imagine eight to twelve thousand pesos monthly pay for a nurse working back breaking shifts in the hospital. When she comes home, she goes straight to bed. Her family, coz chances are she has one, would wonder if she loves her job more than them. And that measly wage would still be reduced by a third when the tax, the PAGIBIG, the SSS/GSIS, the death aid, union fees and other what not are removed before the check is issued. And chances are she is the primary wage earner; her husband is looking for other women because when she’s home, she’s dead tired ; and her children are starved of a mother’s love.

And an engineer: he can start at around eight thousand until such a high of thirty thousand (and that’s a rare thing – most engineers get stuck on a fixed paygrade). He works away from his family most of the time. The distance takes its toll and when the breaking point is reached, there is a high chance that his salary will be spent on booze and cheap women. The life gets to you when you are cooped up in a plant or working on a contract far from your family. You crumble. Rare is the man who wouldn’t. Again, count off the deductions and the cost of vices, and you realize that your life is f****d up. The wife back home is either a martyr, suffering alone; or God forbid, looking for other stuff to do.

And don’t get me talking about teachers. At least, they have the luxury of going home every day after their classes are over. They have their summer breaks and weekends to spend with their families. But, with their salary, that time is spent chastising themselves. You can’t take the kids to the good restaurants or to summer vacations except to cheap resorts reeking of human sweat. McDonalds becomes a luxury, and when was McDonalds ever a luxury, d****t! So you turn your frustrations to your students and become the most hated (or loved) teacher in school.

If that paygrade is tripled or even quadrupled, can you imagine the effect? At least, there will be second thoughts when the lure of greener pastures come.

No matter what we believe, the primary reason is economics. 

On a sobering note, however, any increase of the wage brackets in the country would result to the disruption of the ‘current’ economic model. Companies who flock to the country because of cheap labor would bail out for Vietnam or China. The fallout would be massive in the production sector BUT, but this can be solved if the government would encourage FILIPINO innovation in manufacturing so that instead of working for foreign companies, the Philippines would create its own industrial and manufacturing sector. 

Also, the higher pay would translate to greater spending power; and purchasing power, friends who might not have listened during lectures of Economics 101, is the lifeblood of any economy. If people have something to spend and are willing to spend it (which Filipinos do – they spend like crazy, even if it's not their money); it fuels entrepreneurship, creates a job boom and creates a robust and vibrant economy. Can you imagine, if every working person in the Philippines can afford a Boracay vacation every year or an Ipod (for lack of a better example) on a monthly (or at most a two month) salary? Who would need remittances? I mean, who would?

Sadly, this is impossible. I just got off the communications line with a friend back home and their salary increase is a mere 5% (which is in reality just 2%). How much is a jeepney fare now? Nine pesos na ba? Magkano ang isang kilong asukal? Don’t ask. Ang mantika? Isang kilong bigas? Asin? Don’t get me started. It’s messed up back home. And what about the daily wage earners. It’s no wonder that they waylay you in the streets for your wallet and that NAIA people actually beg for money from balikbayans (or threaten/extort as the case maybe). 

The tragedy is that we can go on for another twenty or thirty or even a hundred years and the status quo remains the same. That’s how messed up our system is. The activists can rage all they want and shed their blood or other innocent’s blood, but there is nothing that they can do, not until some firebrand of a leader who wouldn’t take no for an answer takes the cudgel for everyone (but sadly, this is impossible coz no Filipino would in his right mind do it, and the Filipino people would rebel against even the barest hint of any changes in the status quo – a sad and painful truth).

So don’t blame nurses, us engineers and teachers for leaving. When you mature enough to see how society works, do not begrudge us of our choice. It is as painful, you know, that step into that plane as it is exciting. We know that we are leaving something behind and we are maybe cowards for doing so but don’t blame us, or yourselves. It takes courage to step beyond the norms and that is what we are doing.


Gremliness said...

Well said Johnny.

Wish you well on your journey there in Canada :)

I invite you man kabsat to send in your thoughts and join this year's PEBA Blog Awards

elstupe said...

Thanks so much!

I just entered one of my pieces there and I hope it passes the criteria. But irregardless of whether it passes or not, I will be joining future endeavors. Thanks for directing me to the awesome site.

More power to you and God Bless!

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