For example, those doctors, nurses, seamen, teachers, domestic helpers (and really just college graduates in general) who speak English well have an edge on the rest and are able to work abroad, thanks largely to their competency in English. They help make Philippine migrant workers one of the largest migrant worker groups in the world. Indeed, the more than 10 million Filipino workers abroad have managed to prop up the Philippine economy by sending some $16 billion back home to their families last year, amounting to the fourth largest level of total remittances in the world, and accounting for almost 12 percent of the country’s entire GDP. Indeed, remittances from overseas workers have time and again made it possible for the country to survive many crises, and they will perhaps help it weather the current financial crisis.Call-center agents, Filipinos chatting on their headsets to inquiring English-speaking customers half a world away, were supposed to provide the answer to the Philippines’ economy. They could be drawn from the country’s famously large pool of English speakers to tap into the lucrative offshoring and outsourcing (O&O) market.
But employers in the industry say they now have to reject 95 of 100 job applicants because their English proficiency is inadequate.
A country where spoken English once ranked as an official language has seen its collective proficiency slide over the years, even as the economic importance of the english has grown. The decline stems in part from nationalist campaigns to promote Filipino and from inattention in schools, which the government is taking steps to undo.
Employers say it is increasingly difficult to find people with adequate English, and some O&O employers think the labor supply has dried up.
English once dominatedThe shortage is ironic given that the Philippines once boasted, with some justification, of being the world’s third largest Anglophone country.
If students’ math and science scores are poor, their performance in English is even worse.
“If we do not supply the demand, then we will lose our business,” Garcia says. “We will always need the English language.”
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