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The Top Destinations To Be An OFW

There are an estimated 2.3 million Filipinos working overseas as of September 2018, according to the most recent data of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). There seem to be no sign of slowing down as more Filipinos fly to another country due to the relentless demands for skills and occupations that many of us could fill.

Countless countries have promising opportunities for expats, some may be better than the others. However, there are those countries that have proven time and again that they offer better opportunities for Filipinos. Other than bigger income, they have their own merits that made them home to many OFWs.

Here we list down the best places around the world that a Filipino could work in and perhaps later call home.


1. Singapore

Famously known as the Lion City, Singapore is one of the most thriving nations in Southeast Asia, appealing to foreigners as an outstanding tourist and work destination.   According to a study conducted by HSBC in 2015, Singapore is the number one country in the world for expats. Beyond this country’s wealth, extravagance, and progressive landscape, it’s simply looked-up to due to its high-quality of life and unmatched safety.

Why do Filipinos choose Singapore?

From a strong currency to long-term career opportunities, Singapore has all the elements that could easily appeal to Pinoys planning to work overseas. Here’s a quick breakdown of why it’s one of the most sought after destinations for Filipinos. 

a. Close proximity to the Philippines

Other than the salary, this is probably one of the biggest pros of working in Singapore. It’s only 3 to 4 hours flight away from the Philippines, making it easier to fly back to your loved ones when homesickness kicks in.  The vast availability of direct flights to and from major cities in the Philippines also makes it all the more accessible for OFWs coming from different parts of the country.

b. Easier to find direct hire employment opportunities

While overseas employment agencies are there to dole out job opportunities overseas, they aren’t always tailored to fit many professionals’ expertise and experience. For better job prospects, you can find direct hire opportunities through job portals in Singapore, or referral of a friend who’s already working there. Others would even just apply directly through their prospective employer’s website, and if they’re competent and lucky enough, they get hired with no need for an agency.  

c. Less complex visa-related paper works

First things first – visa.  Singapore’s visa approval regulations have become more strict throughout the years. Despite that, the fact remains that this is one of the countries that can easily grant you a visa with very little bureaucracy. As long as the government deems you as fit for the job and your employer meets their requirement, you’ll get your work pass in just a few weeks.

Singapore grants a different visa for different types of foreign workers. Depending on your skill set, profession, and experience your visa could be one of the following:

Employment Pass (E Pass)For foreign professionals, managers and executives. Candidates need to earn at least $3,600 a month and have acceptable qualifications.
EntrePassFor eligible foreign entrepreneurs wanting to start and operate a new business in Singapore.
S PassFor mid-level skilled staff. Candidates need to earn at least $2,300 a month and meet the assessment criteria.
Work Permit for foreign workerFor semi-skilled foreign workers in the construction, manufacturing, marine shipyard, process or services sector.
Work Permit for Foreign Domestic WorkerFor foreign domestic workers (FDWs) to work in Singapore.
Source: https://www.mom.gov.sg/passes-and-permits

Other than the visa process, POEA and OWWA registration is a must to be legally recognized as an OFW in the Philippines. 

d. Good salary and job stability

One Singapore Dollar is equivalent to more or less PHP37. That alone is a very appealing reason why a lot of Filipinos work in Singapore. When it comes to the salary, the minimum that you get will be dictated by your work visa (or vice versa).  Depending on your visa, you are entitled to the following salary:

S PassE Pass
Fixed monthly salary of at least S$2,300 and not higher than S$3,600.Fixed monthly salary of at least $3,600 or higher.

e. The chance to become a Permanent Resident

Western countries aside, Singapore is the only country in Southeast Asia that grants Permanent Resident status to foreign workers who have proven to be a valuable contributor to the economic activity of the country.  The road to PR may not be easy, but given the right profession and competence, it’s good to know that Filipinos stand a chance at getting such status in Singapore, just like many other Pinoys who have in the past. 

The in-demand jobs for Filipinos in Singapore

  • Nurses
  • IT Professionals (Programmers, Developers, Digital Marketers, etc.)
  • Engineers
  • Architects
  • Sales and Marketing Professionals

How much is the salary of an OFW in Singapore?

Midlevel skilled staff:  S$2,300 and not higher than S$3,600

Professionals: S$3,600 and higher

The cons of living in Singapore

Clearly, living in Singapore isn’t just all about efficient public transport and a considerably big salary for a Southeast Asian country. It also comes with challenges that may take some aback:

  • The extremely high cost of living
  • Housing isn’t really as prestigious as you may though. HDBs alone are expensive, most Filipinos even share their room with 2 or more people to save on rent. 
  • Life in Singapore is fast-paced and busy, it isn’t one for the faint of heart. 
  • Work culture can get extremely toxic, depending on your occupation. Many Filipinos who work for the F&B sector don’t get the regular 2 days off a week, but rather only a few times a month.


2. New Zealand

A tiny island nation located in the Pacific Ocean, a close neighbor to Australia. A country oozing with wonderful nature reserves and wildlife. It easily tops the poll in one of the best places to live in the world. 

Why do Filipinos choose New Zealand?

According to a study, 3 out of 10 Filipinos who currently work and live in New Zealand say this country is their best host country.  In HSBC’s expat report, it’s not just Filipinos who think so. Expats, in general, think New Zealand is the best destination as it ranks first in the HSBC Expat Explorer. 77% of expats say that their overall quality of life is better since moving to the country.

Aside from what statistic says, here are the top reasons:

a. Equal opportunities for all OFWs no matter the gender. 

New Zealand ranks 7th among the 149 countries in 2018 on the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap report. It isn’t uncommon to find women in industries that are typically male-dominated like the IT and banking sectors. 

b. Path to citizenship

Just like many western countries, New Zealand grants citizenship to individuals who can prove to be a significant contributor to the economic activities of their country. There are various occupations that can lead to citizenship, many of which Filipinos are commonly equipped with the right expertise, skills, and education to fill. 

You can check their requirements and eligibility for citizenship grant here

c. Safest country in the world

New Zealand grabbed the second spot of the 2017 Global Peace Index. With an extremely low crime rate and high religious tolerance, everyone will feel safe to live here. 

The in-demand jobs for Filipinos in New Zealand

Job opportunities in New Zealand are in two categories: the immediate and the long-term skill shortage. The immediate shortage are those jobs that are momentarily in-need of manpower, while the long-term shortage are jobs that have a demand for years or even decades to come. 

Occupations on the immediate skills shortage list include:

  • accountant
  • arborist
  • baker
  • building inspector
  • construction project manager
  • midwife
  • nurse
  • outdoor adventure guide
  • snow sport instructor
  • stonemason
  • university lecturer
  • winemaker

Occupations on the long-term skills shortage list include:

  • construction
  • engineering
  • finance
  • health and social services
  • hospitality and tourism
  • ICT, electronics, and telecommunications
  • science
  • Trades.

Whether you’re planning to settle in New Zealand or simply there to reap the benefits of their employment opportunities until you figure out your next career move, knowing your visa options will help you find an employment opportunity aligned with your goals. 

Work visa types

Essential skill work visa 

Visa meant for temporary stays. The duration and conditions of the visa depend on the term of your job offer, your salary and labor market conditions.

Work to residence
It comes with two classifications: long term skill shortage and an accredited employer.
Long term skill shortage is for occupations that fall under the long-term skill shortage list. Meanwhile, the accredited employer is dependent on an employer.

You can read more about it in New Zealand’s immgration portal here

How much is the salary of an OFW in New Zealand?

It’s worth noting that your level of qualification and your occupation will ultimately determine your actual salary. However, in the interest of raising awareness about the baseline salary in New Zealand, knowing how much the minimum wage is a good place to start.

The minimum wage in New Zealand is NZ$ 17.70, which equates to a minimum of NZ$708 a week or NZ$2,832 a month.  

The cons of working in New Zealand

It’s no doubt that New Zealand is easily one of the best choices for an overseas work opportunity. However, there are certain considerations that you will have to take stock:

  • Immediate skill-shortage opportunities don’t always guarantee permanent residence and citizenship. Due diligence and thorough research are necessary to make sure that your work opportunity will meet your long-term goal here. 
  • PR status will only be granted to expats who meet the required salary.
  • Overseas travel may prove to be a challenge if you live here due to its location. Traveling to Perth Australia (the opposite end) will already take more or less 8 hours from Auckland. 


3. Australia

The land down under, famous for its wildlife, outbacks, and beaches.  Australia is one of the most highly urbanized countries in the world, with well-known known large cities such as Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Perth.

Why do Filipinos work in Australia? 

It’s easy for Filipinos to feel at home in Australia due to its friendly climate, picturesque scenery, abundance in leisure activities, and laid-back culture of Australians.  InterNations’ Expat Insider survey found that four-fifths of expats adapted easily to the “Aussie” culture, making the land down under instantly feel like their second home. 

a. World-renowned healthcare

In a study of 11 different national health care models, researchers at the New York-based Commonwealth Fund ranked Australia’s mixed public-private system second best. The study found that Australia ranked highest on Administrative Efficiency and Health Care Outcomes. It was also among the top-ranked countries on Care Process.

b. Diverse population

Big cities especially are made of residents from different nations, not just Aussies. Couple that with an outdoor lifestyle that encourages its people to socialize better, it’s easy to come across like-minded individuals. 

c. High minimum wage

Salary is competitive, full-time salary in Australia averaged to  A$82,436 a year in the second quarter of 2018.

d. Work-life balance

It’s hard to ignore just how amazing your life outside work can be when you’re living in Australia. With heaps to explore – from beaches to rainforests and everything in between – you’ll be spoilt for choice during your time off, allowing you to not just achieve work-life balance but relish in it.

e. Work opportunities open up the chance to PR or citizenship

Just like many western countries, Australia too grants citizenship to individuals who can prove to be a significant contributor to the economic activities of their country. There are various occupations that can lead to citizenship. There are also study opportunities that can give you a chance to get employment opportunities that will lead to citizenship!

The in-demand jobs for Filipinos in Australia

  • Health Care and Social Assistance (1,663,900)
  • Retail Trade (1,286,900)
  • Construction (1,167,200)
  • Professional, Scientific and Technical Services (1,033,000)
  • Education and Training (1,024,300)

Source: https://www.sbs.com.au/language/english/australia-s-10-most-in-demand-jobs-revealed

How much is the average salary of an OFW in Australia?

Salary, of course, will vary according to an individual’s profession and competence. Your job and experience will ultimately dictate how much is the baseline wage that you should expect. However, in the interest of raising awareness about the baseline salary in Australia regardless of the occupation, the minimum wage may give you a rough estimate. 

The national minimum wage in Australia is $18.93 per hour or $719.20 per week for a 38-hour week.


4. Saudi Arabia

It’s a cliche OFW destination but this country just continues to provide more and better work opportunities for Filipinos. Overseas Contract Workers (OCWs) with existing work contracts comprised 96.2% of all OFWs during the period April to September 2018, based on Philippine Statistics Authority’s (PSA) data. And, it will continue to be a hotspot for OFWs in the years to come as it always has been according to projections. 

Why do Filipinos work in Saudi Arabia? 

An estimate of 2.3 million OFWs is based in the Middle-East in the second quarter of 2018, according to the PSA. Despite its distance from the Philippines and many unpleasant reports of harsh living conditions of many OFWs, a lot of Filipinos still prefer to work here and it’s easy to see why. 

a. High salary

The financial benefit of working in Saudi Arabi is the top reason why many like to work here. The salaries are tax-free and the pay itself is considerably bigger than other countries Saving money will be easier while still managing to send money back to the Philippines.

b. Employment opportunity

Saudi Arabia is one of the hardest places to do business, but that also makes it all the more rewarding. Establishing a good employment record in Saudi will demonstrate your adaptability and global business skills, making you more appealing to your future employer. 

c. Low cost of living

Another benefit is the low cost of living, despite being a developed nation. This is the reason why many expats enlist the services of drivers, maids, nannies, and gardeners. While at the end of the day, your cost of living will still depend on your financial discipline, it’s safe to say that expats can easily enjoy a good life here if they choose to. 

d. Close to many travel destinations

Saudi Arabia’s close proximity to Europe and its neighboring regions makes it a central location for many top travel destinations. This is where the world’s busiest airport is, after all, the Dubai International Airport. Their national carrier, Saudi Airlines, also offers world-class standards of safety and comfort. 

The in-demand jobs in Saudi Arabia for Filipinos

  • Petroleum Engineers
  • Multinational Companies
  • Surgeon
  • Banking
  • IT Industry
  • Project Management
  • Media and Public Relations
  • Ads and Creative Designing
  • Real Estate Dealers
  • English Teaching
  • Private school teaching jobs
  • AutoCAD Draftsman

Source: https://www.edarabia.com/jobs/saudi-arabia/

How much is the average salary of an OFW in Saudi Arabia?

Unlike other countries in the world, Saudi Arabia has no official minimum wage for the private sector. What it has is only a minimum wage for the public employees, which is Saudi riyals (SAR) 3,000 Saudi riyals per month. 

Other sources, however, show that the aggregated average salary in Saudi Arabia for white-collar jobs is SAR115,897 a year or SAR9,658 a month.

Source: https://www.payscale.com/research/SA/Location=Riyadh/Hourly_Rate

Cons of working in Saudi Arabia

  • Women will have to face certain conservative restrictions when living here, from the way they dress to the way, they interact with others. 
  • There are limited cinemas and theaters. For the movie buff, you might have to leave that hobby behind in the Philippines
  • Security is high, which can also be very restrictive to a lot of people’s lifestyles
  • Definitely not a country for the LGBT
  • Ultra-conservative public social norms on the overall
  • They don’t offer citizenship, although most Filipinos are not looking to settle down


5. United Arab Emirates

This is another nation in the Middle East that attracts many expats from different countries, not just the Philippines. As rich as this nation is in oil, the same can be said for job opportunities that promise a rewarding career that pays well. 

Why do Filipinos work in UAE? 

With its thriving economy, OFWs in general basically reap more than just better pay by working here. Financial rewards may be one of the major factors, but what makes expats (especially OFWs) stay transcends beyond income – there are more perks here than what most people think!

a. Gateway to more tourist destinations

Free-spirited Filipino travelers would enjoy the fact living in the UAE brings them closer to more tourist destinations that Filipinos couldn’t easily fly to. While it isn’t exactly near Europe or UK, it cuts the travel time in half (than the typical 1-day travel from the Philippines) and the cost too! Tourist visa application is considerably cheaper and easier too. 

On top of that, UAE also houses one of the world’s most renowned destinations in the Middle East, Dubai and its lavish tourist-friendly offerings.

b. Rich lifestyle

The UAE has exceptional utilities and benefits for citizens and residents alike. From convenient work hours that promote work-life balance to world-class healthcare and education, these small things make this nation all an appealing place to settle for expats, especially OFW. If anything, this makes UAE uphold a high standard of living. 

c. Global exposure

UAE has a very diverse workforce coupled with multinational businesses. With that being said, working here will provide tons of opportunities to enrich your CV to further your career in the future. 

d. Tax-free income

High income would usually come with higher income taxes, but in UAE (just like Saudia Arabia) you’ll have a bigger take-home because you don’t have to pay any income taxes. That’s additional savings for you and your family. 

In-demand jobs in the UAE

  • IT security analyst
  • Applications developer
  • Systems administrator
  • Accounting and finance
  • Finance director (large company)
  • Financial planning and analysis manager (large company)
  • Financial analyst (large company)
  • Financial services- Compliance manager
  • Financial services -Investment banking/M&A associate
  • Financial services – FX sales manager

Source: https://gulfnews.com/business/revealed-uae-jobs-skills-in-demand-in-2019-1.2295609

How much is the average salary of an OFW in UAE?

Just like in Saudi, there is no national minimum wage for private employees. However, UAE nationals are subject to certain specific salary thresholds and requirements. If a UAE national has no high school certificate, his or her salary should be at least AED 3,000 per month.

Other sources, however, show that the aggregated average salary in Saudi Arabia for white-collar jobs is SAR 115,897 a year or 9,658 a month. For more specific figures according to job title and industry, you can check this link out. 

Cons of working in UAE

  • The cultural and religious setting is extremely different from the Philippines
  • Housing rentals are paid annually and upfront.
  • Summers are extremely hazardous.
  • Healthcare providers are not always reliable.
  • Citizenship is not impossible, and the naturalization process is extremely difficult for non-Arabs. 


United Kingdom

It is one of the largest economies in the world, and the third in Europe. United Kingdom (UK) is rich in history which is well-known throughout the world. They have preserved their traditions along with the heritage buildings and other historical sites and is home to many world-famous landmarks that every tourist has dreamt of visiting. On top of that, there are jobs and resident opportunity for those who seek to live and work here.

Why do Filipinos work in the United Kingdom? 

Probably on top many Filipinos bucket lists or lifegoals to live and work here, and it’s easy to see why. For those who have already made it here, the financial reward isn’t what’s keeping them stay, but rather everything else that comes from being a resident here. 

a. The opportunity to be a citizen

This is without a doubt the topmost reason why many Filipinos prefer to work here. Permanent employment in the UK often leads to PR or citizenship. The UK may have tightened its immigration policy, adopting Australia’s points system so that their economy’s needs will be met. However, this does not restrict expats from becoming a citizen, provided they meet the required qualifications. 

b. Free healthcare

Citizens and permanent residents alike mainly benefit from the UK’s healthcare, which is free at the point of use and paid for from general taxation. It’s basically free for all as long as you’re a tax-paying citizen in their community.

c. Free education

Just like healthcare, their education system is also subsidized through their taxes. The state schools from pre-school to colleges and universities do not charge fees. The only expenses to the parents for their child’s education are for uniforms, school trips, and school supplies. 

d. Equality 

Everyone from all walks of life and whatever gender they associate with is treated equally in the UK. They have a law that strictly forbids any discrimination on the basis of gender equality, disability, marital status, age, race or religion, belief or sexual orientation.

e. Opportunity to bring their family

One of the biggest perks of working in the UK is the opportunity to be reunited with their family. Provided that certain eligibility in job and salary is met, it’s fairly possible for any Filipino to migrate here with their family. 

In-demand jobs in the UK for OFWs

The easiest path to citizenship in a country like the UK is fulfilling the job opportunities that fall under shortages of skilled labor. While to date, most OFWs who find success in migrating in the UK are mostly Filipinos professionals from the field of nursing, there are also other occupations that can find the same opportunity here such as the following:

  • Engineers
  • Software developers
  • Consultants
  • Teachers
  • Chefs
  • Designers
  • Sales executives
  • Nurses

How much is the average salary of an OFW in the United Kingdom?

Salary, of course, will vary according to an individual’s profession and competence. Your job and experience will ultimately dictate the baseline wage that you should expect. However, in the interest of raising awareness about the baseline salary in the UK regardless of the occupation you are in,  the minimum wage may give you a rough estimate. 

UK’s minimum wage is £8.21 per hour. If you work 40 hours a week, that equates to £1,313.6 a month. Those figures may be low considering the cost of living in the UK is extremely high, professionals who migrate in the UK usually earn more than the minimum wage. Say for example nurses. They earn an average of £2,704 a month. Other occupations that are under the UK’s list of shortages also earn more even more than that. 

Cons of working in the UK

  • Salary may be high, but so is the cost of living. From food to transportation and utilities everything is more expensive.
  • Rents are very expensive especially in London, and purchasing a property is even more expensive.
  • Homes and accommodations are extremely compact.

Recession or not, Filipinos could always find their way to the workforce of another country, legally. Despite the challenges that working overseas entail, many Filipinos still thrive and come out successful in the field of their profession overseas. With the proper expectations and enough preparation, venturing to the world beyond the Philippines will surely promise you more than just monetary rewards.

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