Cool Tip #054: Seven (7) Disadvantages of Being an OFW

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This cool tip is meant to be read together with our previous one (cool tip #053–click here to view). Whereas in the last cool tip we talked about the advantages of being an OFW, today’s tip talks about the other side of the coin—the disadvantages of being an OFW. Yes, as you know or will know, being an OFW has its own share of cons. You will have to take these into consideration as well when making your big decision of whether or not to pursue the OFW life.

So, let’s get right to it. Here are some disadvantages which we believe one will most likely experience as an OFW:

  1. Separation from loved ones. This is usually the biggest disadvantage OFWs face, no matter where they work abroad. Loneliness and homesickness are common among OFWs, and it takes lots of strength and willpower to get through these as you go and work abroad. There is also the case that, if you have a family of your own, you will not be there to watch your children grow or to handle family affairs with your spouse. Furthermore, there is another side to this separation: you may be living alone abroad. This means that you will have to be independent, making sure you survive through each and every day abroad as well as facing (alone) any problems that come your way.
  2. Pressure to earn. There exists a strong notion among Filipinos that being an OFW = earning tons of money. As we’ve discussed in our previous cool tip (click here), this is a big misconception. However, it is likely that you would still feel the pressure to earn as much as possible during your time as an OFW, what with other people’s expectations surrounding you. Thus, there are OFWs who think they have to live up to these expectations by overworking or by leaving little to no money for their own personal use abroad, while sending majority of their pay to their loved ones back home.
  3. Abuse and discrimination. Truth be told, abuse and discrimination of OFWs still does happen in certain places abroad. We’re sure you’ve heard lots of stories about these things in the news. Of course, this does not happen to all OFWs—yet, there remains the possibility of it happening if you are unlucky enough to work under a bad employer. And it’s not only foreign employers who partake in these. There are also those illegal recruitment agencies in the Philippines which take advantage of OFW aspirants, offering them work abroad for very little pay, zero benefits, and/or inhumane work conditions. Remember to steer clear of these should you choose to begin searching for jobs abroad.
  4. Working in a field unrelated to your background. Be prepared to accept jobs abroad that have no similarity or relevance whatsoever to your past jobs in the Philippines or to your earned college degree/s. By choosing to be an OFW, you will often find yourself at the mercy of foreign employers and which jobs they are looking to fill. If jobs unrelated to your line of work are the only ones left open on the market, then you have no choice but to apply for them if you really want to work abroad as an OFW.
  5. Bad fit with place of work abroad. As we say frequently here in the cool tips, working abroad exposes you to a lot of new things. There is the chance, however, that these new things may not work out too well for you. For instance, your job abroad could involve tons of outdoor work—but if you dislike cold weather, you will definitely not enjoy working in places that experience winter. There is also culture shock to worry about.
  6. Being an OFW has a time limit. Being an OFW is not the same as having a stable job in the government or a private firm. Being an OFW is a temporary “job”. OFWs are, more often than not, bound by contracts, which means that somewhere down the road you will have to go back to the Philippines and hunt for another job. Sometimes, these contracts don’t even finish and OFWs can get prematurely terminated, which leaves you suddenly without a job. In other words, you don’t have much control over the security of your job as an OFW.
  7. Brain drain. Finally, by working abroad you contribute more to the development of other countries than to the development of your own country, the Philippines. Some may say this isn’t much of a disadvantage, especially considering that people do need to feed their families first and there is a lack of jobs in the Philippines as it is anyway. However, it will impact the progress of the Philippines in the long run since there will be less professionals available to steer the country in the right direction and to keep it running at a state that is on par with other countries. Just something to think about, perhaps.

Now that we’ve given you a good list of both the advantages and disadvantages of being an OFW, it’s up to you to weigh these as you decide whether or not to become an OFW. It really depends on which things you find more important to you and your loved ones at present, or even in the time to come—is it financial stability? is it to have strong family ties? is it to have the chance to get out and explore the world? Whatever you decide, we are certain it will be one of the most difficult and heavy decisions you will have to make in your life. So think about it well, and think about it all the way through!

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