Filipinas in the Global Care Industry
Nursing the World

The global Filipina

One in every four foreign nurses in the world today is Filipino. Or more precisely, Filipina. The global demand for nurses has given rise to a boom in nursing education as tens of thousands of Filipinos, including medical doctors, are now taking up nursing so they can work abroad.

Cover photo by Jose Enrique Soriano

In all, the booming global services industry is providing job opportunities for Filipinos seeking employment overseas not just as health workers but also as caregivers, entertainers, domestic helpers, and chambermaids. The result has been the migration, in droves, of Filipino women who now make up 65 percent of those going abroad to work.

The female diaspora has changed the Filipino family in profound ways. Millions of families are now financially better off, as they can rely on overseas remittances to pay for everything from concrete houses to tuition fees and mobile phones. But at the same time, the migration of mothers has brought untold agony to the families left behind. Today an entire generation of Filipino children is growing up motherless.

No doubt, female migration is causing a shift in gender roles, as fathers attempt not always successfully to perform the tasks traditionally taken on by mothers. There is also a power shift taking place in the Filipino family, as women are now the main breadwinners in many homes. Communication within families is likewise changing. Today, much of what passes as family life among migrants is experienced virtually, through mobile-phone messages and Internet chats.

Back home, the mogration of health workers is causing a crisis in hospitals. Patient care is deteriorating because of the shortage of doctors and nurses, many of whom are queuing for jobs overseas. Still, many others are left behind, doing heroic work with meager resources and caring for those in far-flung areas or in marginalized communities that need help the most.

This edition of the i report examines all these issues, but also documents other journeys. we discover second-generation Filipino-Americans searching for their roots. Our photo essay traces the joruney of a balikbayan box while a first-person account narrates how Filipinos search for companionship and surrogate love in the maddening deserts of loneliness in Saudi Arabia.