Michael Alan Hamlin

Posted on June 2, 2010

Last year, remittances from overseas workers amounted to $17 billion, or 12% of gross domestic product. Remittances continue to expand, increasing 7% to $1.6 billion in the first quarter of 2010 according to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. The contribution of overseas workers to the economy, election spending, and growth in business process outsourcing (BPO) together substantially account for the Philippine economy’s surprisingly robust 7.3% expansion in the first quarter.

But of these three engines of growth, one is dysfunctional, one largely non-recurring, and one subject to increasing competition in a tight labor environment. When a nation’s citizens flee the economy for high-paying jobs overseas, it’s a sign that government isn’t doing enough to create attractive jobs at home. Much of the election spending that takes place is probably sourced in a variety of ways from tax revenues, further straining cash-strapped government coffers.

BPO, although expanding, is subject to the twin pressures of inadequate and dilapidated educational infrastructure and increased competition in Asia and around the world. Poor educational infrastructure means that despite its fast-growing population, the Philippines can’t produce qualified workers fast enough. Many that are qualified are lured overseas by even higher paying jobs. Meanwhile, demand for BPO is expanding rapidly, and service providers will go where large pools of qualified labor are available.

In recent weeks, I’ve come across two individuals who seek to address these issues. Armand Dean N. Nocum is a former seminarian and journalist who has evolved into an entrepreneur but whose passion is provide an educational “leg up” to young children in Mindanao. Mr. Nocum set up the A-Book-Saya-Group, with the mission to “flood” Mindanao with books “and plant in the young generation the seeds of peace.”

His Kristiyano-Islam Peace Library in Zamboanga City has provided books to approximately 3,000 students and funding for almost 70 scholars. To continue his work, Mr. Nocum requires financial support, however. If you would like to consider lending a hand, you can contact him at abooksaya@yahoo.com. Mr. Nocum intends to use funds he collects to complete work on a library and livelihood center.

Paolo Gutierrez is taking a very different approach to helping fellow Pinoys at his website, www.eliteworkathomejobs.com. His objective is to help individuals find rewarding, high-paying online jobs they can perform while living in the Philippines. He bemoans the fact that 10% of Filipinos-about 12 million-work in some 200 countries around the world, providing financially for their families, but leaving them adrift emotionally without the benefit of their physical presence.

Although a teacher can earn on average around 10 times as much working in the United States as in the Philippines, Mr. Gutierrez points to opportunities that provide similar remuneration without the necessity of living abroad. That means that workers can make overseas-sized incomes while living in the lower cost economy the Philippines provides. He points to the case of Abe Olandres, a professional blogger earning $5,000 a month and J. Angelo Racoma, an economist by training who writes technical blogs for a living. Mr. Racoma says writing blogs can pay from $300 to $6,000 a month.

“Blogging is just one option,” Mr. Gutierrez told me recently. “There are many other work-at-home jobs to choose from, including freelancing, which has turned many work-at-home practitioners into high-income earners.” A work-at-home professional himself, Mr. Gutierrez provides software development services to clients around the world, and he boasts a five-year track record. His website provides insights for those who would like to consider his solution for achieving a rewarding lifestyle online from the comfort of your home in the Philippines.

These two gentlemen have taken very different paths towards empowering Filipinos. In Mr. Nocum’s case, his selfless efforts are intended to uplift young people who have very little going for them otherwise. He is also devoted to nurturing a multi-ethnic, tolerant society. Married to a Muslim woman with whom he has two “mix-religion kids,” for Mr. Nocum, tolerance and understanding clearly begins at home.

Mr. Gutierrez is leveraging his entrepreneurial leaning and experiences to generate new opportunities both for himself and others. In opening the minds of his website subscribers to new avenues to prosperity, he may be changing the lives of young professionals every bit as much as Mr. Nocum is empowering his young charges with knowledge. These two paths to helping others are vastly different. But both deserve support for their contribution to creating opportunity.

(Michael Alan Hamlin is the managing director of TeamAsia and a Manila-based author. His latest book is High Visibility: Transforming Your Personal and Professional Brand . Write him at mahamlin@teamasia.com and follow him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.). Copyright © 2010 Michael Alan Hamlin. All Rights Reserved.)

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