Friday, October 23, 2015

ARTICLE | The Filipino Diaspora and the Rise of Japayukisan

Recruitment Agencies in the Philippines

The Philippines is the second largest labor-exporting country in the world next to Mexico. According to Floro Mercene[1] an average of about 2,500 Filipinos leave the country everyday. About 7.5 million Filipinos, ten percent of the total population, are classified as Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) distributed in 182 foreign countries. This number does not include the estimated three million migrant workers who are undocumented and illegally working abroad.

Among the top 10 sources of remittances of OFWs, except Saudi Arabia, are destinations with large proportions of female OFWs. These countries are the United States, Hong Kong, United Kingdom, Japan, Singapore, Italy, Saudi Arabia, Canada and Malaysia.

Gender stereotyping of OFW occupation exist. Women dominate the service workers (9 out of 10), as well as the professional and technical workers categories (3 out of 4). In 2000, an estimated 600,000 women OFWs were domestic helpers in 18 major destinations worldwide. There are at least 47,017 Filipino entertainers in five countries in Asia of whom 95 percent are in Japan. The rest are in Hong Kong, Macao, South Korea and Saipan. Official statistics clearly reveal an interesting number of women both in the international and internal migrant flows.

The percentage shares of deployed women OFW has steadily increased from twelve percent in 1975 to 47 percent in 1987. These figures point to a continuing trend of feminization of overseas employment.

Unlike other OFWs, entertainers have relatively short-term contracts- from three months to six months. Although they could earn as much as 1,500 USD a month, they usually take home about one-third of their earnings since they have to pay various charges from a layer of agents and brokers.

Entertainers are one of the most vulnerable groups of workers, both here at home and in their host countries[2]. The many opportunities to earn money by the maze of players involved in the recruitment process make the entertainers easy prey to fraudulent transactions even before they are able to leave.

In the workplace, the temptation to earn fast money have pushed quite a number to break their contracts. Ran away and get reemployed without the benefit of a legal contract or are lured into the sex trade. Thus t he task of government to protect and provide for t he welfare of the Filipino overseas performer has been difficult and challenging.

Past Studies on Recruitment Agencies

According to the Philippine's Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) an average of 2,748 Filipinos leave the country each day for jobs overseas. There are some five million Filipinos working overseas and the money they send back to their relatives in the Philippines is a major source of foreign exchange for the cash-strapped country[3].

Filipinos working overseas remitted 6.23 USD to the Philippines in 2001, a 3.05 percent increase from 2000. There are 280,882 Filipino workers: 219,132 land-based workers and 61,750 seafarers, left for jobs abroad after being hired or rehired between January to April 2002.

The Far Eastern Economic Review published a study on the many Filipino Japayukis exploited by sexual capitalists in Japan. Entitled, Filipino Japayuki authored by William Wetherall, Japan has become the home of abou 10,000 Filipinos who recently surpassed the British as the fourth largest group of foreign residents after the nearly 700,000 Koreans, 70,000 Chinese and 30,000 Americans. This is not many in a total population of 120 million, but Japan's Filipino connections are centuries if not millenia old. And though Japanese officials worry about the greater number of bar girls, gun runners, pick pockets and mango fly larvae that are entertaining the country, the rise in zainichi Firipinjin pawaa (the power of Filipino residents in Japan) reflects an increasing interdependency between the two archipelagos.

Filipino Women in Japan

The Japanese mass media has produced a number of TV documentaries and dramas that show the plight of Filipinas and other Asian women in Japan. Most have been objective or sympathetic. Only a few have been xenophobic or have gone to the ideological extreme of portraying all third world women as victims of Japan's sexual capitalism.

Such women are called Japayukisan, in analogy with Karayukisan, a word which was used before the Pacific War to denote Japanese women who went to China (meaning anywhere in Asia outside in Japan) to work as prostitutes. US bound Japanese prostitutes are called Ameyukisan.

While Japan has a reputation for being tough in matters concerning immigration, the officials who scrutinize new arrivals with eyebrows raised over suspect hotel reservations and itineraries do not really seem prepared to keep Southeast Asian tourists out of the country. Some Japayukisan are turned away, but most seem to have little difficulty getting in.

Safely in Japan, such women make the rendezvous that lead them to their places of work- typically a drinking establishment that caters to prostitution. Half a dozen women may share an apartment designed for two. They usually stay cooped up during the day to avoid people who may tip off the authorities, and they live over instant noodles and cola. Their sponsors often hold their passports to keep them from running away.

There have been several cases of forced prostitution and at least one Filipinas is known to have sent a desperate note to the Immigrant Bureau asking them to rescue her. But most Japayukisan seem to both expect and accept working conditions that their Japanese counterparts would not tolerate. Some speak more than a little Japanese, sometimes picked up from Japanese contacts in the Philippines or during previous stays in Japan.

But even women who come to Japan with their eyes wide open may need a respectable cover story, if only to nurture their self-esteem. And the stock occupational raison d'être of the Filipina Japayukisan is that the ethnic dances she performs in Japan's urban and rural tenderloins are culturally edifying.

Many Japanese are simply not aware that most Filipinos in Japan are not engaged in occupations that threaten public morals. Some are students or factory trainees. Others are college professors or clinical psychiatrists- but others are cabaret hostess or cultural attache. All are uniquely contributing to the internationalization of Japan.

Based on the study of Florendo-Tablang, the upsurge in overseas employment contributed significantly to the decrease in unemployment as well as in relieving our balance of payment difficulties. However, this trend gave rise to the problem of illegal recruitment, an activity that flourished as overseas jobs became an increasingly attractive option for Filipinos in the face of the continuing economic crises at home[4].

[1] Mercene, Floro, The Filipino Diaspora. Tempo. 22 August 2003, p.8
[2] Ibid.
[3] Araneta, Sandy. , The Filipino Diaspora Continues. Philippine Star. 21 April 2002
[4] Florendo-Tablang, Evelyn. The Anti-Illegal Recruitment Program of the Government: An Assessment. National Defense College of the Philippines, Fort Bonifacio, Metro Manila, p. 1-2

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