It was a fine day when I left for Japan last year to attend a graduate student’s conference. As I was about to enter the airport gate, a heartbreaking scene made me stop --- a young girl, around seven years old, holding her mother so tightly and not letting her go.
It was a painful sight for me because I was that girl about 17 years ago, the first time my mom left to work as a domestic helper in Bahrain. For 14 years, I envied those girls who had their mothers with them as they were growing up, but I knew we had no choice because we needed enough finances to live a decent life in the Philippines.
The Philippines’ main industry is labor export. Thinking there are no enough opportunities awaiting them here, many Filipinos choose to leave the country with the hope that their lives, as well as their families’ will eventually become better once they work abroad.
Migrants indeed play a vital role in the country’s economic development. However, aside from looking at the apparent positive economic implications of out-migration among Filipinos, I believe it is equally important to analyze the socio-economic implications of this trend among those who are directly affected—the migrants themselves and the families they have to leave behind—especially the ones I can relate to the most, the youth.
A study estimated the number of Filipino youth  left behind by either one or both their parents at nine million, or 27% of the total youth population. Some of them end up having to live with a single parent while the norms of the society heavily instills the concept of an “ideal” family being composed of a mother, a father and their children. Others are left under the care of their immediate relatives. There are also the ones who have to be in charge of themselves at a young age.
The Philippines is known as one of the labor-exporting countries in Asia but unfortunately, there aren’t enough programs to make sure that all the parties affected, particularly the youth, are well attended to. Looking after the welfare of young people affected by migration requires a collective effort. To assure the appropriateness of the policies and programs to be implemented for the youth affected by migration across countries, it is highly important for the world first to have a standard identification of who comprise the youth.
(This post is by Abigail Generalia, one of the finalists of the World Bank Essay Competition on Youth Migration. The blog is excerpted from her essay, written for the competition (pdf).)
Photo: Flore de Preneuf / World Bank