The Philippines’ migrant workers, and the children left behind

No mother wants to leave her child — but in the Philippines, it can feel like there’s no other choice. Unable to earn enough money at home, an estimated 2.2 million Filipinos worked overseas last year, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority. The majority were women, many hoping to give their child a better future.

They work as nurses, hospitality staff, nannies and cleaners. Last year, they sent $33.5 billion back to the Philippines in personal remittances — a record high, according to the country’s central bank.

More than 2.2 million Filipinos worked overseas in 2019The top five destinations were in Asia and the Middle East

Source: Philippines Statistics Authority

But their income comes at a high personal cost. Mothers can miss out on entire childhoods. Sometimes their relationship with their children remains damaged and distant, years after they return. Other times, their children’s lives can veer off course without a parent at home.

In Hong Kong, the vast majority of Filipino migrants are domestic workers, often raising other people’s children. CNN spoke with several of these women, and adults who grew up in the Philippines without their mothers, about the emotional toll of being separated for years.

“It’s really hard to leave. You don’t want to leave, actually … (but) I don’t have really a choice.”

“I told him, this is a trade-off. If I look after other kids, I can send you to school, you can have greater education. But usually they don’t understand that.”

“I can never leave my babies, I can never go abroad and be apart from them; I could never do what my mother sacrificed for us.”

Domestic workers in Hong Kong report high rates of poor working and living conditions

“When I became a mother, I realized her sacrifices. I loved her more because it is hard for a mother to be separated from her children.”

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