Recent shifts in attitudes towards traditional family and gender roles have challenged the way families live. Combined with changing socioeconomic conditions, these factors have led to more diverse roles for fathers outside of being the typical breadwinner.
Despite this, men still make up a bigger share of migrant workers around the world. In 2019, they made up 58.5%, or 99 million, of the migrant labor force.
“Mothers and other women in the family have increasingly been defying the traditional norms historically expected of them, which has changed the way families manage their budget and divide household labor. However, we recognize the role fathers play in providing for their families and that nearly 100 million men are separated from their families working overseas every year,” said Earl Melivo, Head of Asia Pacific at WorldRemit.
Though fathers are expected to be more involved in taking care of their children and home, for fathers working overseas, these changes in expectations are impossible to adjust to, because of the physical barriers of their work.
Jose, who has been based in Dubai for 26 years, talked about his biggest woes being an OFW father. “It was hard for me to know that I would be missing the important milestones in my children’s lives, like their birthdays and their first days of school. A father’s presence in these events is important, and looking back, I’d give anything to be more present in my children’s lives,” he shared.
Another OFW father, Renato, first worked as an assistant project engineer after graduating college in the 90’s. When he was promoted, he worked for two more years in Manila before deciding to board a ship.
With the rise in demand for skilled migrant labor across different sectors in high-income countries, OFWs not only earn more for their families, they also stand to fill gaps in foreign workforces, raise the bar for OFWs globally, and progress significantly in their own careers.
Being able to progress by bounds from his previous job as an entry-level to chief mechanic made Jose stay abroad, but his and Renato’s successes had not been without sacrifices.
“I had to deal with severe separation anxiety since I knew I’d be far away from my family for a long time,” Jose said.
Renato shared the many ways he tried to keep in touch with family, “Back when there were no phones, we regularly exchanged letters with photos. Sometimes we even recorded voice messages on cassette tapes. When the internet started becoming more common, I would try my best to go to an internet café in whatever country I was in to video call my family.”
Seeing to it that their children got a good education was a motivator for both fathers.
“I found motivation in my children’s behavior towards their studies. Today, because of my sacrifices and hard work, they have good jobs and are supporting their own families,” Jose said.
Despite his absence, Renato also aimed to rear his children the best way he could while away. “Don’t just focus on money. Proper communication and guidance must be valued too. Leave them with your words of wisdom and teach them good manners,” he advised.