MANILA: The Philippines is adjusting to the changing demographics of its migrant workers in the UAE, Manila’s new ambassador said on Wednesday, as growing numbers of young educated Filipinos seek employment abroad.
Out of more than 2 million overseas Filipino workers, whose remittance inflows account for about 9 percent of their country’s gross domestic product, around 650,000 live in the UAE — the second-largest employer of Philippine expats after Saudi Arabia.
Most of them traditionally found employment in the hospitality and services industries, as well as in households.
But the trend is now changing as an increasing number of young Filipino professionals look overseas for work, Ambassador Alfonso A. Ver, who assumed his post in Abu Dhabi last month, told Arab News.
“The demographics of Filipinos coming to the UAE is changing, and the Philippine government is responding to this change,” he said.
“We note that the demand for medical professionals and nurses is very high, and this has been made clear by the UAE side, so this is an area we are looking at where both sides can work on.”
About 10 percent of Filipino workers in the Gulf state are employed in the health sector, according to a 2019 study by EON, a Philippine public relations company in Dubai.
Their dedication became particularly visible during the COVID-19 pandemic, when many became frontline workers supporting the UAE’s response to the outbreak. Those who lost their lives while on duty received state recognition from the rulers of Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
“Throughout the pandemic, Filipinos in all fields of endeavor continued with their work here in the UAE, and those at the forefront of vaccine trials, the doctors and nurses, were recognized for their efforts to fight the virus,” Ver said.
“The Filipinos in the UAE are significant not only in number ... they are known for their professionalism, talent and skill, combined with innate friendliness, which is why they are respected and embraced by the UAE.”
The envoy said that under his leadership, the Philippine government’s team in the UAE will look for ways to “leverage the goodwill between Filipinos and the UAE” and promote cooperation between the two countries.
The key role in the efforts has been played by expat Filipinos themselves, to point that Ver refers to them as his “fellow ambassadors.”
He said: “This impact of Filipinos residing in the UAE opened doors and allowed the embassy to engage meaningfully with the host government.
“From the time UAE’s founding father Sheikh Zayed established this country, Filipino professionals such as engineers, architects and later those in the medical field such as doctors and nurses arrived on UAE shores to help build this nation.
“The strong presence of Filipinos in all aspects of UAE life is felt to this day, and I believe this is an advantage, a leverage that we should continue to build on.”