Global Job Losses and Returning Migrant Workers

This post focuses on the stories of the unemployed and migrant workers who are returning home to their countries. How has unemployment affected individuals around the world? What are some of the difficulties encountered by individuals as they search for work? In what ways the reverse migration of workers creating problems for developing nations?

Unemployment diaries

There are several websites which provide regular news updates on job losses. For example: Layoff Tracker, Layoff Daily, The Layoff List, Singapore Retrenchment Blog. For its part, the International Labour Organization has uploaded a document on latest unemployment figures for every country in the world. These websites highlight the fact that job layoffs are perceived by most people as the primary and most recognizable indicator of the global economic recession.

There are many unemployed individuals who document their daily struggles by creating blogs. A few examples of these unemployment diaries are (Brazil), Retalhos Da Vida De Um Merdas (Portugal), Jobless and Less (United States), Unemploymentality (U.S.), Pink Slips are the New Black (U.S.)

‘Escape from Unemployment’, a book about the life of an unemployed person in Korea was published. Also noteworthy is the Unemployment Haiku Weekly blog of a recently laid-off worker.

Unemployment Haiku Weekly

Unemployment Haiku Weekly

Fabio C from Brazil echoes the sentiments of the unemployed:

Ficar desempregado é terrível. Você se sente inútil, nem descansar consegue, já que você pensa que precisa achar algo para fazer. Seu corpo e sua mente se acustumam ao trabalho, agora entendo porque aposentados ficam depressivos ou porque alguns profissionais vendem 10 ou 20 dias de férias.

Meus dias tem sido pesados, cansativos por serem iguais.

Becoming unemployed is terrible. You feel you are useless, you can not even relax because you think you need to find something to do. Your body and your mind is used to work, now I understand why some retired people get depressed or some people prefer to get paid to work for 10 or 20 days during their vacation.

My days have been heavy, strenuous because they are all the same. That really depresses me.

According to the ILO, the Middle East and North Africa region recorded the highest unemployment rate in 2008. Amira Al Hussaini of Global Voices has written a post about the job losses in the Arab world. One of the hardest hit by the recession was Dubai. Kinan Jarjous in Dubai wrote a poem and several goodbye emails after being laid-off:

There’s no need to be upset. I, for one, am ecstatic that this is over. Granted, I will miss the income, and feeling somehow “useful”, but it is now due.

I have drafted several goodbye emails, but picked the shortest and sweetest to send. There’s nothing left to do, nothing I would talk home about anyway. My energy now should be spent on pressing forward, and following my own wishes. I have to stop pretending to be someone else.

Even workers in the movie industry are in danger of losing their jobs. A producer for a major movie studio in Hollywood was recently laid-off:

They say that the movie business is one of those recession proof industries, but when you have the base of such an interconnected economy collapse and you also have lots of people suddenly waking up to the fact that they've been living way beyond their means, then it seems that even the mighty Hollywood ends up shedding jobs. And those people, just like everyone else, will have to think about finding work, staying in their homes, and making sure their families have good health insurance.

A blogger from South Korea identifies the possible reasons of companies for firing workers. Aspan, also from Korea, observes that “society is not comfortable with the unemployed.” Below is a translation of what Aspan wrote in his blog:

Most unemployed people feel humiliation when they receive unemployment compensation. They feel upset in workshop places where they can receive the compensation. We all know we lost jobs, but they painfully remind us in such a cruel way. We’re not begging, but it leads us to be upset. In order to receive the compensation that is provided every two weeks, we have to go to a public place on time and have to show evidence of how hard we have looked for jobs for two weeks. After passing, we can finally receive the unemployment compensation. In addition, the moment when I feel sad is how other people look at me. The way they look at me, why the person who is supposed to be the breadwinner of the family is stuck at home. “Can I take a rest for filling up new energy?” Even when I try to make a credit card, I was rejected from companies that had begged me to make cards before… Our society is not comfortable with the unemployed.

Unemployment has taught many people to appreciate the valuable things or persons in their lives. Pedro from Portugal is comforted by the fact that he is supported by family and friends:

Valem-me muitas coisas. O conforto da família, os amigos, os colegas. E, mais do que tudo, poder pegar na tua mão e sentir que ao pé de ti nada mais importa do que ver-te verdadeiramente feliz. É essa a razão principal que ainda me faz sentir uma ponta de optimismo e afasta de vez a palavra desistir do meu dicionário mental. Porque nada irá estragar um bem precioso que me caiu na vida de forma tão incrível. Como que a dizer que a vida tem sentido. E tem. Contigo tem. Bastante.

Many things are valuable to me. The comfort of my family, friends, colleagues. And most of all, I can hold your hand and feel that next to you nothing else matters more than seeing you truly happy. This is the main reason why I still feel a bit of optimism and take the words “give up” away from my mental dictionary. Because nothing will ruin a precious asset that came to my life in such an incredible way. As if to say that life has a meaning. And it has. With you, it has. A lot.

But sometimes unemployment also defeats the spirit. An Egyptian politician blames the high unemployment rate for the phenomenal rise of suicide cases in Egypt.

The video below features the unemployment crisis in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) member countries.

Job hunting journals

Bloggers are also writing about their quest to find jobs. Most of them are encountering difficulties.

An expat in Israel lost his job during the Israel hi-tech bubble burst in 2003. But he was able to bounce back. Now he is on the job hunt again. His wife discusses the problem of age discrimination in the job market:

While age discrimination is illegal in Israel, anyone in the hi-tech industry knows that it’s “Logan’s Run”; i.e. if you are over 55, you simply do not exist.

What does one do when one has a life-time of experience and no one seriously considering you for employment because you’re over “a certain age”?

One of the toughest parts of having an unemployed spouse is seeing the daily toll on their ego and self-esteem between potential job openings and on-going interviews. In some cases, the selection process has run upwards of 3-5 months while companies narrow the field.

Mona, a Palestinian in Canada, is frustrated that IT companies are looking for individuals who know everything but willing to work for almost nothing:

You can tell that the job hunt of mine sucks, but I am sorry companies and recruiters, I do not have the knowledge of over 20 languages, with 5+ years experience. However, I do have the ability, like any other Computer Science grad with years of experience, to learn new things. Is learning such a bad thing now a days or a person has to know everything from the start and get paid almost minimum wage?

IT jobs nowadays are not based on post secondary education or continuous learning ability. It is based on finding a human robot that knows everything and willing to work for nothing.

In Hong Kong, Oiwan Lam of Global Voices has written a post about the controversial subsidy plan of the government for university graduates looking for work:

As the unemployment problem is getting worse, preserving job is considered the most crucial task. (Financial Secretary) John Tsang decides to put the university fresh graduate on sale with a subsidy plan. However, many people worry that the policy will distort the job market as it allows corporates to pay university graduates as low as HKD 4,000 (a bit more than US500), in which HKD 2,000 is government subsidy.

Several Facebook groups have been set up to protest against the policy. The most popular one is Hong Kong Financial Secretary deserves HKD4000/month only!

In Germany, many job hunters are forced to work for shorter working hours in exchange for government wage and social-insurance subsidies. Curiously, unemployed investment bankers from London are flocking to Singapore. Saudi women who lost jobs are faced with limited working opportunities – sexual harassment in the workplace is a major reason. A Cambodian blogger invites Khmer-Americans who are looking for stable jobs to return and work in Cambodia. Social media tools are being used too for job applications. For example, Twitter Job Search.

There are worries that Japan is already experiencing an “employment ice age” which would create another “lost generation” of young Japanese with no full-time employment. At least 87 companies had canceled 331 informal promises of employment to university students last year. More than 500 temp workers stayed in tent cities last January after losing their jobs.

The short video below shows temp workers in Japan who sought refuge in tent cities last January.

Returning migrants

Migrant workers are returning home in large numbers after losing their jobs in the U.S. and Europe. This reverse migration can be a source of conflict in poor nations which cannot provide adequate employment and social services for their citizens.

More than 8 million Filipinos are working abroad. The remittances they send to their families help sustain the Philippine economy. Today, many Overseas Filipino Workers, including professionals, are returning home. A Filipino couple who lost their house and jobs in California are moving back to the Philippines. Filipino domestic workers in Hong Kong are being replaced by locals. In the previous post, I mentioned that a Philippine airline has increased its flights in the U.S. and Canada which can be interpreted as a sign that more and more retrenched Filipinos are forced to go back to the Philippines.

In the past Brazilians with Japanese descent are migrating to Japan. Today, “Brazil is the new Japan.” Paula Góes of Global Voices has written a post about Brazilian immigrants in Japan who are returning home because of the crisis. At least 40,000 Brazilian immigrants are planning to leave Japan.

Elaine has opted to stay in Japan; but she observes that the Japanese economy will continue to worsen. She is also worried that there are Brazilians who are living in the streets of Japan:

A crise não dá sinais de melhora e com isso existem mtos brasileiros que aqui residiam e que já regressaram ao Brasil,os que ficaram,como eu,estamos tentando sobreviver nessa crise brava que afetou o Japão,quase todos os dias eu vejo nas notícias do Japão alguns brasileiros que vivem nas ruas, que não tem nem o que comer e outros que vivem em abrigos públicos,contando com os donativos de pessoas solidárias.

The crisis shows no signs of improving and because of this there are many Brazilians who used to live here and have returned to Brazil. The ones who stayed, like me, are trying to survive this mad crisis that affects Japan, almost every day I watch the Japanese news reporting on Brazilians living on the streets, people who have nothing to eat and others who live in public shelters, relying on the donations of kind people.

Dubai’s population is expected to decrease by 8 percent as foreign workers continue to leave the city. A blogger contends that Dubai’s population will decrease by 25 percent. Schools in Dubai are receiving numerous applications for school transfer certificates as children of foreign workers return to their home countries. One school lost 10 percent of its student population.

The economies of most countries in South Asia depend on the remittances sent by their migrant workers. Rezwan of Global Voices has written a post about the continuing and disturbing trend of migrant workers who are suddenly returning home in South Asia.

Supriyo Chaudhuri at Sunday Posts writes about the reverse migration from the U.S. to India

Recession, uncertainties and difficulties in the immigration process and emerging opportunities in India combined, have created a flow of reverse migration from the United States to India. There is a trickle added to this from the UK, and the dam has burst in Dubai. So, suddenly, Indian cities are full of returnees, with a bit of cash, trying to start a new life all over again.

The number of workers leaving Nepal has decreased. As Malaysia prefers to give jobs to locals, Bangladesh migrant workers are forced to go back to their home country.

Thumbnail image used from the Flickr page of Per Bjorklund. The Portuguese text was translated by GV editor Paula Goes. The quote from Korea was an English translation provided by GV editor Hyejin Kim.


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