The Deprofessionalized Pinoy

Here’s an interesting article I read from a local Pinoy newspaper here. It is entitled – Explaining the Deprofessionalized Filipino: Why Filipino Immigrants Get Low-Paying Jobs in Toronto” The report is the result of extensive research and focus group sessions held among Pinoys of different levels of education and occupation. The startling conclusion is that Pinoys are the lowest paid among the major immigrant groups in the country and reasons for such under achievement are postulated in the report.

The article purports that there is an ongoing class struggle and quest for identity for Pinoy immigrants here. In a country that promotes the spirit of multiculturalism – meaning we acknowledge that we came from different cultures but we can celebrate our respective cultures and live together in unity and harmony –it is not overly difficult to establish respect for one’s ethnic origin. Canada’s Multiculturalism Act is entrenched in its constitution. It encourages everyone to preserve and share their unique cultural heritage, making it easier for people to integrate into society without abandoning the culture they left behind. I’m not saying that this city is perfect. Outright discrimination or reverse discrimination can never be eliminated. It may not be obvious but still exists albeit in a much subtler way.

It is not difficult to comprehend the apparent deprofessionalization of an immigrant when it comes to finding work for the first time, when your host country second guesses your experience, skills and education – if they meet the standards. We all have to start somewhere- some from the bottom , some midway. It depends on how we carry and project ourselves to gain the trust of our prospective employer and how bad we want the job. If you are motivated enough, you can crawl up from where you started and no one will stop you. We should be prepared change careers to one that will give us the best opportunities if we are serious in our pursuit of success and prosperity. The people who bitch and moan about deprofessionalization are those who have no motivation, content with laying stagnant and not willing to change their attitudes and outlook and expect people to assess them of what and who they were in the Philippines. I know people who believe in safety first and are scared shit to change their jobs for fear that they might fail. These are the reasons why they remain stuck in their deprofessionalization quagmire. It is not only Pinoys who are deprofessionalized. Immigrants from other Asian countries suffer the same fate. I read publicized stories of university professors and PHD’s who drive taxis for a living because their degrees and credentials aren’t recognized here. The list goes on and on. I’m wondering now – are we Pinoys the worst among the lot ??


The report has these questions :

What class do you belong to ? How do you assess the class or social status of yourself and others? Is it a bank balance or an occupation that defines class? Or is it the size of your car or your house ? Why are women, immigrants and ethnic minorities systematically paid less and why do they tend to occupy lower status occupations in Canadian workplaces ? Have certain identities become associated with particular roles in our labor force and particular status in our society ? What does being Filipino and Filipina imply in Canada ?

Statistics show that 20% of Pinoy immigrants come under the Domestic Worker Program or the Live-In Caregiver Program, 40% under the family unification and the remaining 40% as independent immigrants , entrepreneurs and investors. Now let me ask this question – aren’t care givers , most of whom are college graduates, deprofessionalized by default, in view of the nature of their employment which is generally viewed as servanthood?

On the question – Have certain identities become associated with particular roles in our labor force and particular status in our society ?

The influx of Pinay caregivers in this country had caused the Filipina to be stereotyped as domestic helper who you can pay peanuts to clean your house and take care of your children. It isn’t pleasing to hear someone joke and say “ if you want to have another kid, don’t worry about day care expenses. Just hire a live-in Filipino maid and you save a fortune”.

On the question – How do you assess the class or social status of yourself and others?

In my daughter’s primary school, my wife often rubs shoulders with a bunch of Pinay caregivers who drop and fetch the kids they care for at the school. The school is predominantly caucasian but the parents of the classmates of or daughter who we become friends with are extremely nice people. At the start of this school year, my wife had a chat with the mother of a new classmate of my daughter. The mother started off by asking “ she’s your daughter, right ?” Is that because my daughter doesn’t have blond hair ?? A Filipina told me that when she had her practicum at a private elementary school after obtaining her university degree, a Pinay nanny approached her at the school grounds and asked “ yan’ ba ang alaga mo?” She replied, “ no – I’m the teacher”.

Deprofessionalization happens to all immigrant groups from Asia. The onus is on the immigrant, one how quick he wants to extricate himself from the dilemma. A relative of mine who worked part time at a hotel cleaning rooms to support himself through university told me about a co-worker, Pinoy immigrant ( a graduate engineer back home) offering him advice at work – “We Pinoys work hard and this is kind the job that we excel in. Bagay tayo sa ganitong trabaho at gustong gusto nila tayo dahil masipag tayong magtrabaho “. The young man who left the country when he was 4 years old replied ” when I graduate from university I’ll be looking for another job.”

I find it hard to believe that when 20% of the Pinoy immigrants – caregivers – are deprofessionalized by default at their own volition, we are still searching for answers why Pinoys end up being the least paid amongst the immigrant groups. On the quest for identity and social status, we frown at how lowly people look at us, yet how can we boost our social status when the mother country prides itself by being the provider of “educated” domestic helper to the world ? We can’t blame others from casting an opinion or stereotyping us when they see an occupation trend that we seem to like to monopolize.

The report says :

there is no avoiding the fact that the Phils is a poor country – a low cost peripheral nation in most global production systems and a site of social reproduction for a low-waged global underclass. The fact that about 10 percent of the country’s GNP is derived from remittances from overseas speaks clearly to the lack of dynamism and opportunities in the domestic economy.

This goes to the Pinas government who had done zilch in developing and strengthening the local economy, failing to curb the debilitating population explosion and seems content in sending its people to work abroad to support their families. If there is such a thing as deprofessionalization of government the Pinas government would be a prime example.


I don’t know about you guys but I don’t find this frigging commercial funny at all. Loudness doesn’t tickle my funny bone at all. The dialog is so dumb and stale in the first place. Whenever I see this commercial on TV I switch channels right away. Or maybe I’m just getting old 🙂

39 Responses

  1. Though there is no official report like that in the UAE, we have the same situation here. The Emiratis regard us as one of the most educated among the expats, including those rendering domestic help. What bugs them is the effectiveness of the Philippine government’s strategies [e.g. to encourage a percentage of the workforce to work abroad (and encourage to engage in domestic help despite the unfortunate abuses)].

    • even in regulated countries like Canada there are still issues with abuses of domestic helpers, how much more with countries where a court system does not exist. The Pinas government should ban sending them to such countries 😦

      • agree. sometimes when i hear of attacks or calamities to ‘never-heard’ countries, it surprises me how much filipinos live there. kahit saan yata basta may hangin payag ang gobyerno na papuntahin dun ang mga tao.

        plus, i really hate discrimination. if we would all look at each other as “people”, without any brands or labels, i bet this world will be a much healthier place.

        • you bet.. I can’t believe that there are Pinoys living in the Falkland Islands in the South Altantic 🙂

          discrimination is bad but we can regulate if it cannot be eliminated. Even in Pinas, those who graduate from lesser known schools are discriminated when it comes to job hunting.

  2. If you come to this country during a recession there is a great chance that you will be deprofessionalized 🙂

    On serious note, qualification of credentials doesn’t mean automatic employment. You will still have to prove yourself through through tests and interviews,.
    LOL Bw. I thought only women hate this ad 😆

    • so true. in a recession where job losses are plenty, it is difficult to find a job in your chosen profession. I know of Pinoy immigrants how settle for less paying jobs just to get going while others stick it out for months, waiting for the right break.

      That’s the point – even if your credentials and education are recognized, you have to convince your employer that you are the right person for the job, with the right experience and personality.

      I find the ad really corny ugh 😦

  3. I think it depends. My cousin and her family just recently migrated to Canada and she’s working there in the same field she’s working back in Pinas, a pathologist.

    But in general, yes, this is a wake-up call to all our “kababayan” who migrates to the West. When it comes to work, we “degrade” our selves by seeking jobs below our professional capability. For example our doctors became nurses and engineers became “draftsmen”.

    • My take on this is it is really up to the person – his goals of coming and living here. Some are content with their take home pay while others are in the chase for the big money. Those who complain are often the people who desire more but don’t want to do anything to upgrade their skills and credentials.They bitch when the same is true with immigrants from other nations. Is this a manifestation of the “victim syndrome” complex ??

      I personally don’t think that Pinoys are in the bottom ladder of the employment. The figure is dragged down by the 20% of domestic helpers who for the most part make less money because they live in with their employers. If there is one thing I have noticed and I have lived here for 2 decades now, those who haven’t improved their lives are those who brought their laziness here. The proverbial Pinoy mentality of having disdain for “those who get ahead because they can talk but don’t know much” doesn’t work here. You have to to know how to talk if you want to get ahead in this place.

      I am pissed about this quest for identity crap. I find it dimwitted to talk about social status and class about a particular immigrant group when 20 % of them who come are domestic helpers. It is akin to doing a study about Mexican income stats in California when you know that there are thousands of them who work for food because of their illegal status.

  4. all immigrants suffer the same fate. when you are a stranger to the country no one trusts you. also you have to speak the language if you want to have a good job.

    that ad is irritating to me, to say the least.

    • I would say immigrants from the visible minority have the same experience when they come over. you can move from employer to employer if you wish to make the big bucks so I don’t know why people complain like they’re stuck with one employer. that’s the key to get ahead – market your experience – if you have the guts and unfortunately some people don’t have the guts and lack the ambition and await manna to fall from heaven from where they stand.

      Irritated with this ad ? That’s a mild word for me hehe 🙂

  5. i remember going to an agency to try working abroad and offered me an executive secretary job. i dont have anything against the job but i am not a secretary so i told the manager. and she said, it’s almost the same with my current work and told her, it’s not; she insisted, i insisted. then she asked how much salary i expect and i told her and she said she could not give me that, or the employer will not agree with it. she was giving me a third of what i was asking. i declined. not because i think too highly of myself but because i believe my skills are more than what is expected of a secretary. why would i receive something which is almost how much i am receiving here and work far away from family? and besides, why didnt try my skills first so that they will know?

    minsan, naiisip ko, pinoys are very afraid to go out their comfort zones. for that, they should not utter a word of disappoinment.

    • I entertain thoughts of exploitative agencies when I read your comments. All they think about is the commission they get per person, never interested in what the person would be going through 😦

      I disagree with the report because it seems to accuse the government for the dilemma the Pinoy immigrants allegedly go through when a big part of it has to do with the immigrant himself.

  6. re: lowest paid underemployment, pumapayag kasi tayo…

    thing is, we’re a very culturally neutral so ang bilis bilis naten mag blend in kahit san man tayo mapunta and that’s both a good thing and bad.

    • it is both good and bad true but I have met Pinoy immigrants who went back because they can’t stand being deprofessionalized here even for starters. It is a function of what you make at home vs what you can make here and your expectations of your career.

      The truth is people who immigrate here must bring their immediate family members because this is not an OFW country. You get dinged with taxes unlike in the Middle East where tax is zero.

  7. That many of our professionals aren’t accredited in most western countries is very telling of our country’s standard of education, hence, even the most skilled of professionals usually end up getting menial jobs, or have to go back to school. Instead of encouraging its citizens to work abroad for pennies, the government should do what Taiwan did. The Taiwanese government enticed its citizens who studied and worked abroad (particularly in the IT sector) to come home to work, invest and create their own IT industry. That’s why they have brands like Acer, Asus and HTC, while we still have yet to have our own brand that can compete with the best of them.

    • You have touched on the core issue of education. Here, only a small percentage of high school graduates can enroll in a university to obtain a bachelor’s degree. Only the ones that meet the strict average requirements are eligible to enroll. Those who couldn’t make the requirement end up going to college to get a 3 year diploma – non degree program. Hence the distinction between a university and college. University education deals more with theory while college deals more with applications. A univeristy degree is not a passport to prosperity though. When it comes to employment, not all positions require a university degree so there is room for everyone.

      They say only 10-15% of the population ever get to university here. It simply means that not everyone is university material. They also trust that these 15% who graduate are trained up to standards. If someone obtains an engineering degree here, to get a professional license only requires a test in ethics and safety . They trust their educational system. YOu’ve done 5 years of theory so no need to do a test on it. They also require that you have been engaged in the field you have studied for 4 years before conferring the accreditation as engineer. In short, one has no business being called a professional engr when he is manning his parent’s corner store after he graduates 🙂

      Canada has reciprocal policy with other 1st world countires when it comes to recognizing professional accreditations but Pinas is not one of them. If a Pinoy wants to obtain the deisgnation of professional engineer, you have to either go to school to make up for required credits or take a challenge theoretical exam + safety and ethics exam.

      There are few universities here but colleges are plenty. Conferring someone a bachelor’s degree is serious business. Who needs a university degree anyways when you can make more money and likewise live a comfortable life being a trades person – a mechanic or a carpenter .

      The problem in Pinas is the notion of prosperity hinges on a university degree. There is no respect for the dignity of labor. The truth is not everyone is university material. What the government must do is promote skilled trade like Hongkong, where skilled laborers make very good money. YOu don’t need to get a university degree if you like to repair cars for a living.

  8. I’m so clueless about this. I haven’t been in foreign country for long so I don’t really see the plight of our Filipino overseas contract worker.
    But in Hongkong alone, there are thousands of Filipinas who graduated a college course but end up as domestic helper. Therefore, these are the same Filipinas who are candidate for deprofessionalized Pinoy…

    • they say you can really only know your country if you go abroad and see what other people are doing.

      My take on this report is we Pinoys are crying wolf when other nationalities are not. If there is such a complaint, it will have to be the immigrant community as a whole . Case in point in 1990, the province of Ontario passed a law not requiring photos to be submitted with an application and not requiring any details – age, marital status nor religion – to be asked in the application form.

      If Pinoys are getting the cheap jobs – it is their own decision. The stereotyping of Filipinas is due to the influx of domestic helpers and the mail order brides.

  9. It’s not a surprise since Pinas is probably number one in having a “De-Professionalized” citizenry in the world; college grads working as sales clerks or in low paying government jobs, just my hunch, hehe…..

    Granted that the economy hasn’t tanked down; I agree with BW that it’s up to the individual with the degree to showcase himself, by that I mean, able to express himself not in Shakesperean mode but communicate in GOOD English to be accepted. Believe me, the downfall of most degreed Noypis seeking jobs in the English speaking countries (US, UK, Canada, etc..) is their inability to pronounce certain words, and if you are not understood by the Interviewer, what do you expect… I’ve really encountered some new noypis before for interviews and calmed them down and I told them “palabasin mo ang inglis mo sa ilong, sigurado pasado ka”

    Saw that commercial a few weeks back, and it should be shelved for life….to me, it’s so bad.

    • very true. Even in Pinas, deprofessionalization is common. You find sales clerks with college degrees. It had gone so crazy now that they seem to want every sales clerk applicant to have a college degree.

      Communication skills is key. Just look at the movie stars and singers – their communication skills. Except Madonna who is a smart woman, an A student with a college degree, most of them are high school grads at the most. Sa atin, pag meron kang excellent communication skills mayabang ka na. I remember back in Pinas, managers are being criticized for being maboka lang subalit walang alam.

      That commercial sucks. I saw it again last night and I flipped the channel hehe 🙂

  10. If you’re coming to a foreign country with a working visa – you have to work that job regardless of your educational status/attainment.

    If you are in a foreign country via immigrant status – you have a choice. One cannot rely on the education that he/she already has. Even locals need to get into further education to better beef up their resume.

    Sometimes, luck plays a major part in this too. Still there is no substitute for hard work and always keep your eye on what’s going on around you. Am I still in the right track? What I’m saying is never be satisfied with what you have accomplished. Keep on learning, diversify 🙂

    There is nothing wrong with working as nannies, caregivers, etc. Someone has to do it, why not you? Isa pa the English are considered good nannies and they even have butler schools right? That’s service oriented jobs and I don’t see them looking down on those jobs? Why too much emphasis on white collar jobs? We all can’t do that.

    • You got a very good point. Never be satisfied – that’s the key to finding your success. As one saying goes ” I came here not just to survive but to succeed”.

      On the issue of social class and identity, the report also says this :

      “If Filipinos are being held below their potential in the labour force, how do they themselves understand their class positioning? Or to put it another way, why do Filipinos stay in Canada to be subjected to this sort of marginalization?”

      If the report says that we are marginalized ( I don’t agree with it btw), then the reason might be that we are taking the jobs of nannies and care givers which is viewed by many as servanthood. The people who view it this way are mostly our fellow immigrants from other countries who look at the job as belonging to the lower part of the food chain. The British nannies are paid extremely well and therefore unaffordable while the Pinoy nannies are cheap and considered as servants. The question then arises – why are these college graduates taking the job of nannies who are being paid less ( because they live in with their employer) ?? If we accept that the need the money desperately them we should not cry wolf and just bite the bullet.

  11. the Pinoys in Canada can apply for immigrant visa after serving 3 years as live in caregiver which means they can get regular job and petition their families. If you go to Hongkong or Europe you will be a domestic for the rest of your life. Hindi na kailangan mag complain at konting tiis lang dahil pansamantala lang naman ang trabahong mamasukan sa bahay ng ibang tao. Merong liwanag din sa likod ng madilim na ulap ika nga.

    • correct. live in caregivers are allowed to apply for immigrant status after 3 years as long as they have no criminal record. Therefore it is a must for a caregiver to upgrade her skills during the 3 year period so she can get a much better paying job. The truth is it also depends on the person, if she continues to work as caregiver after getting the immigrant status. THe door is open – it depends on the person.

  12. i’ve heard about this deprofessionalization thing, it happened to a travel friend of mine who migrated there, she had to re-enroll for another two years, quite short compared to others, in order to regain some of her “lost” credentials. She now lives happily there and working, and i’m hoping she gets married soon 😛

    • that’s the way to do it if you want to succeed. I’m not saying the system here is perfect but if you can prove you are good in what you do, you will certainly gain the respect of people.

  13. When the Philippine government does not do anything to improve boost its economy and improve its pathetic job market situation, unemployed/underemployed college graduates are forced to look for work elsewhere even if it means working as domestic workers (not that it’s bad per se; being a nanny or caregiver is still a decent job). All the government cares about is the remittances that help boost the local economy. Where is the sense of national pride?

    I met a handful of cleaning ladies in Switzerland and Dubai as well as caregivers in Israel who had complained that they had no choice but to leave their families behind to earn a living. But it’s not easy; they get wages/salaries not on a par with the accepted standard (i.e. other nationalities, who do the same job, get paid more). But since their employers could sense their desperation, they were offered sub-standard rates. “Wala na kami magagawa. Mas ok na ang ganito kaysa walang trabaho sa Pilipinas,” one depressed cleaning lady at the Dubai airport quipped.

    I also heard that Pinoy English teachers working in Thailand, Malaysia and China are paid less compared to their Western counterparts. But since these Filipino teachers get higher salaries abroad than they do here in the Philippines — kawawa ang mga teachers sa Pilipinas — they don’t complain anymore about this unfair system they experience abroad. After all, beggars can’t be choosers.

    It’s a sad plight, really. It makes a nationalist’s heart like mine grieve deeply.

    • there is a social consequence when women leave the house to support the family, when kids grow up without that important mother figure. In other Asian cultures such as Korea, they frown with the idea of women going away to make a living. It is even worse if the frigging husband does nothing at home except watch TV, drink and womanize as we often hear 😦

  14. By the way, while I was living in Switzerland, I was not even qualified to work as a cleaning lady just because I was not ‘qualified’ (yes, they do have Swiss certificate programs — very expensive ones, mind you — for that purpose). Not that I applied for that position.

    I was waiting for my bus one evening when an elderly lady asked me if I clean apartments for a living. I politely said no. “I can’t even clean my own apartment,” I added. Apparently, there are lots of Filipinos who work in Switzerland as cleaning ladies (Putzfrau, as they call it). Because of the lack of Swiss qualification and the lack of fluency in the local languages, they couldn’t find a ‘better’ job like, say, a clerk or secretary.

    • Language could be an issue and I am not surprised if that’s happening. But here language isn’t a big issue and in fact live in caregivers are only tied up with a contract with their employer for 3 years and they are free to leave when they are eligible to apply as an immigrant and find better jobs,

      • I know. So it’s much better there in Canada than in Europe.

        I was just citing a related story based on personal experience. 🙂

        • That’s why I consider this deprofessionalization study as crap I’m sorry to say. We can’t blame the government nor society if Pinoys aren’t getting the good jobs. Maybe it is us who are used to thinking small – we are the authors of our own misery. Typical “victim syndrome” crap , blaming others for our misfortune duh. 😦 Hope you are having a great summer in Pinas 😆

  15. When you think about it, the ultimate solution to this lies in OUR country. We cannot do something about people in other countries who measure you based on your race or social status, but if there’s a way to avoid going there to be enslaved and abused. it lies here at home. By the way, I like your blog and you’ll be happy to know that I have included it in one of my blog rolls, Award-Winners, one of the little ways I try to promote Filipino culture. You are welcome to visit The 2Rivers Magical Mystery Tour anytime — — Thank you and God bless! Sincerely yours, Jonathan Aquino

    • You are absolutely correct. And if I may add the Pinas government must not send their women to countries where abuse of women is prevalent, where their protection is not guaranteed. Thanks for the visit.

  16. Im smiling while reading your journal. It is timely indeed because this is my recent status at the moment. Honestly, I will do a “noble” job while waiting for the right time to work in my field of specialisation. When I was in the UK, I did a parttime work in a food chain and no regrets of doing that. Why? because my salary is comparable to a professional work in the Philippines. When I was in Australia, I did a “janitorial” work in a shopping mall and because of this job, I was able to save money for my travel to the UK, Sweden and Finland.

    • you’re a globe trotter indeed. the big difference is you were scraping to get by with no intentions of remaining in the job forever. The best part of it was you were not complaining and you knew where you stood 🙂

  17. A year back, I thought that the Pinas government must learn how to market from Seth Godin.

    Gloria Arroyo treated our professionals like commodities. And her strategy was best buy – good standard for the lowest price.

    You do not get people’s respect when the basis is price.

    • The government can’t produce jobs locally because it doesn’t have a good handle on the economy and the population explosion. Unfortunately, you have can’t simply address the economy and ignore population explosion. Sending Pinoys abroad to work and relying on foreign investment to bail the country out isn’t the solution.

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