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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Retrogression Update: DOLE sees an oversupply of nurses, some work in call centers

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By Bernice Camille Bauzon, Reporter

BE a nurse and see the world—as a flight stewardess.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is serious: to ease the oversupply of nurses, it is suggesting to airlines that they hire nurses as in-flight staff.

“This way, in case of emergencies, there will be skilled medical personnel onboard,” says Carmencita Pineda, Labor undersecretary for internal affairs cluster and regional operations.

Labor officials are scrambling for ways to find jobs for some 80,000 to 100,000 nurses who are unemployed—out of the 480,992 registered nurses in the country.

Imagine: just last weekend, 89,252 graduates took the nursing licensure examination.

To ease the glut, the Labor department is also encouraging nurses, especially those who are wary of joining hospitals because of the low salary, to try working in local company settings. This is one slot that is currently hard to fill maybe because “there is no career path there,” Pineda says.

Not only does an unemployed nurse get a job experience that is useful in future resumes, a company nurse gets a much higher salary and steady working hours, usually from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. while hospital nurses get lower pay and different shifts.

“Local positions for nurses are limited,” Pineda told The Manila Times.

The high number of the unemployed is caused by oversupply. “The projected local demand [for nurses] is 60,000. The demand from the international market is bigger,” Pineda said, but this does not help because the Philippines is producing more nurses than what the market demands.

Working in call centers

And while local hospitals need as much medical personnel as they can get, plenty of registered and highly capable nurses opt to work in other industries like call centers rather than content themselves with the meager earnings of a local nurse.

The starting salary in call centers is upwards of P15,000 while abroad nurses can receive at least $1,000 a month—both way ahead of about, on average, P10,000 a month nurses are currently paid; new graduates are paid much lower.

”We cannot raise the salaries of our nurses since we have a Salary Standardization Law. The Magna Carta for health workers aims for a salary increase for nurses but it can’t approximate what they’re getting abroad,” Pineda points out.

Overseas hospitals still recruit Filipino nurses in significant numbers but not that much.

No effect from global recession

The global recession has nothing to do with it. “There is no effect. Health care is different. Maybe in terms of demand for commodities, there is an effect but in health care, there’s none,” Pineda said.

Even with the slowdown in the West, many believe that Filipino nurses can still find jobs in other countries like France, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, which have recently opened the doors to Filipino nurses. Recently, employment in Asian and Middle East countries even went up.

In general, however, the deployment of Filipino nurses abroad is declining, according to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).

Only 9,178 new nurses went to other countries last year, with the majority (6,633) going to Saudi Arabia. The United States and United Kingdom—top destinations for Filipino nurses since 2000—registered a dramatic decline in Filipino nurses now deployed there.

The biggest upset was in the UK, the biggest employer of Filipino nurses since 2001 that averaged more than 5,300 recruited nurses a year. Only 38 nurses were deployed to the UK last year.

“Although there are plenty of nursing graduates and licensure passers, none have enough experience to be globally competitive. We don’t have enough training hospitals for them to have clinical experience. And experience is what international hospitals require of nurses,” Pineda said.


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