The Philippines has a long history of migration since the Hispanic rule in the 14th century when the first Filipino seafarers migrated to Guam, Indonesia, Mexico, and other nearby islands via trading ships going down the Manila-Acapulco galleon route. Today, migration is not only one aspect of the country’s foreign relations; it has now been deeply ingrained in the Filipino culture.

The Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) classifies Filipino emigrants as citizens leaving the country to settle permanently abroad. While some Filipinos apply for emigration independently, most are usually petitioned by their parents, siblings, or immediate relatives overseas. Registration data spanning 31 years starting from 1988 showed the highest number of Filipino emigrants recorded in a year to be 92,998 in 2015. Interestingly, the age group of 14 or below consistently listed the highest number of Filipino emigrants than any other age group. From 1988 to 2018, emigrants aged 14 or younger comprised 21.13% of the total statistics, followed by 25- to 29-year-olds with a wide margin at 11.83%. Meanwhile, the dominant sex among these numbers was female at 59.64%.

Since 1998, more than half of the total number of Filipino emigrants were bound for the United States of America (USA) at 60%. The next most popular destination countries were Canada at 20.12%, Japan at 6.21%, and Australia at 5.9%, followed by Italy, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Germany, South Korea, and Spain.

While migration was initially a temporary solution to curb high unemployment rates and tackle foreign currency problems, it has evolved into a long-term migration policy intended to stimulate economic development. In the last 30 years, a culture of migration has undoubtedly emerged, with millions of Filipinos eager to move abroad despite the risks and vulnerabilities they are likely to face. This phenomenon presents Filipino migration as both a global opportunity and a challenge. In this regard, the country needs to explore further how migration can be an instrument for development while at the same time addressing the hurdles brought about in the process.

Reference data covers 1988-2018. Infographic covers 1981-2018.