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Remittances seen bouncing back from lows but overseas job market remains weak

REUTERS

By Luz Wendy T. Noble, Reporter

REMITTANCE flows in 2021 will recover from their lows in 2020, but the prospects for overseas workers will remain clouded, with some signs of resiliency and relief that the worst may have passed, money-transfer industry executives said.

“We are still foreseeing major challenges ahead, like the still relatively weak jobs market in many of the host countries, and slow recovery from heavily affected industries because of the pandemic,” Earl Allan E. Melivo, country director at WorldRemit, said in an e-mail to BusinessWorld.

Mr. Melivo said the sectors which are expected to be hardest hit are cruise lines, general tourism, restaurants, and the oil industry.

Meanwhile, UniTeller Philippines President Noel C. Cristal is looking at selected markets which may serve as bright spots for overseas employment.

“Singapore is for IT (information technology) workers, Taiwan is for the factory, Japan is opening up for the healthcare industry because their population is really getting old and then you have the guest workers in New Zealand. Once everything is okay, I think these ones will flourish,” Mr. Cristal said in a Zoom interview.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas expects cash remittances to grow by 4% this year following an expected 2% contraction for 2020.

“Compared to other countries, the Philippines as a receiving country, remains among those which continue to defy initial estimated declines, similar to Asian neighbors, Pakistan and Bangladesh,” Mr. Melivo said.

The central bank said October inflows rose 2.9% year on year to $2.747 billion. In the first 10 months, cash remittances slipped 0.9% to $24.633 billion.

More than 327,000 overseas Filipino workers were repatriated in 2020, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Developments on the vaccine front and improving job prospects will boost remittance flows going forward, Mr. Cristal said.

“We’re very positive for the next two years. We’re very bullish about it and we’ve gone through the worst and I think it’s going to be much better in 2021 and 2022,” he said.

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