OFW: the life of overseas Filipino workers



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Filipino Family

In 2018, there were 2.3 Million overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) living and working abroad, according to data shared by Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). These Filipinos work overseas, often continuously for years, voluntarily choosing to live far away from their loved ones. Although they regularly send money to ensure a good life for their families, they put themselves at risk of missing out on most aspects of life back home. Children grow up, graduate and start working. Parents age. Friends lose touch. Even the landscape back home changes over time. However, this need not be the case. OFWs often find constructive ways to beat homesickness and continue to be integral parts of the lives of their loved ones even from afar. 

What does OFW mean?

Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) refers to migrant Filipino workers, citizens from the Philippines that live and work abroad. The term OFW has been widely used since the 1990s, even being used by the government of the Philippines the adoption of the 2002 Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (Rules and Regulations Governing the Recruitment and Employment of Land-based Overseas Workers).

Who is considered OFW?

Any contract worker from the Philippines who resides in another country for employment (for a limited period of time) is considered to be an OFW. “OCW” (Overseas Contract Worker) can also be used to refer to migrant Filipino workers. In essence, an OCW is an OFW with an active working contract.

Annual visits 

The most popular destination for OFWs is Saudi Arabia, with nearly 25% of the OFW population working in this country. However, Riyadh is more than seven thousand kilometers from Manila, and tickets are far from cheap. The vast majority of OFWs don’t visit home more frequently than once a year. Needless to say, when an OFW comes home for a visit, it is the highlight of the year for the family.

Balikbayan boxes 

Balikbayan box literally means “repatriate box” and is a trend that started in California in 1980. It is a package with a collection of items and presents for family and friends which an OFW ships back home, usually via sea freight. Many door-to-door cargo services specialize in delivering Balikbayan boxes, although it is not uncommon for OFWs to take them along on flights when they visit, or to send them with co-workers flying back home. Balikbayans rapidly gained popularity in the 80s’; so much so that in 1987 they were awarded duty and tax-free privileges through a constitutional amendment by the Philippine government at the time. Gifts can be excellent substitutes when you cannot be there yourself. 


Frequent phone calls and video calls over cheap and free apps such as Skype go a long way to keep family bonds strong. Many Overseas Filipino Workers keep themselves continuously updated of all the important events taking place back home. Festivals, holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, school events and any news in the extended family are great topics of conversation. Despite being physically separated by vast distances, OFWs are able to offer comforting words to ailing parents and effectively convey their love to partners back home. 55.8 percent of all OFWs are women. Phone calls allow parents to remain a part of their children’s lives. Even from afar OFWs make sure to encourage their children before their school exams, congratulate them after, offer advice about money and life when needed, and to ensure that they always remain accessible and approachable to their kids.

Remittances from OFWs

Most events in the family have a monetary overtone. Children needing new books at school, an adjustment in a parent’s medication, a new appliance, celebrations during festivities, household repairs and maintenance, nearly every such occurrence has a monetary implication. Sending money to support the family need not be a formality. Money is a necessary enabler and the families certainly value and respect the Overseas Filipino Workers as providers. However, family is the most important part of life. Every financial matter is another opportunity to start a conversation and share opinions. OFWs often use remittance transfers as opportunities to know more about ongoing events back home and strengthen family bonds. Showing interest and involvement in day-to-day family events goes a long way in making up for the distance.

Financial wisdom 

While OFWs work hard to keep their families comfortable, it becomes important to also utilize incoming remittances wisely and efficiently. Savings are an important part of good long term financial planning. Savings allow families to offset the economic burden of most of life’s major events.

Another important aspect of financial intelligence is the use of an efficient money transfer service to send money to the Philippines. As an Overseas Filipino Worker, your obvious choice is a remittance service which always offers great USD to PHP exchange rates and lowest fees for credit card payments, in addition to reliability and end-to-end tracking at your fingertips. Choose wisely, and optimize your remittances with Ria Money Transfer.

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