What drives these individuals to the profession? The primary factor for this trend is the promise of employment in first-world countries abroad such the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. With over 10% of the population being unemployed, many young people saw nursing as the means for a better life abroad. In these countries, nurses can earn as much as $4,000 dollars per month while the same employment in the Philippines can only provide for salaries ranging from $180-$200, considerably below standard for the average household. A sign-on bonus of upwards of $7,000 dollars in hospitals abroad is equivalent to roughly two to three years’ salary on average in the Philippines. By 2007, over 85% of all Filipino nurses were working abroad – coming home with stories of wealth and luxury, further promoting the ‘American Dream’. This golden age in the Philippines’ history would be referred to as the ‘Nursing Boom’.
However, just as quickly as the trend rose, so too did it fall and by 2016, over 200,000 nurses in the country were unemployed. These young men and women had originally wanted to be nurses to avert the labor crisis but because of the subsequent massive oversupply, the labor market has now shifted against them. Despite the economic surge during the Aquino Administration, there are only about 500,000 nurses in hospitals all over a country of 16 million citizens. This is a far cry from the predicted ideal ratio of one nurse to twelve patients which is believed to be the best quality for proper care to be provided. Lowly prioritized health care budgets in the controversial Duterte Administration have resulted in retracted substandard wages for these nurses, leaving them in the same economic shambles they had been meaning to avoid.
Because of the oversupply, nurses have no bargaining power and have become expendable commodities in the professional world. They are forced to render market can simply have them replaced at a whim – and there are still numerous factors to consider such as string-pulling and the ‘padrino system’ (whereby you are hired based on the people you know and not necessarily your skills), management policies, and of course political instability in an era considered to be one of the most turbulent times for the small archipelago. Most nurses, license and all, end up jobless and these professionals had to make do with finding alternative jobs if only to make a living. .
Despite the following economic crash, there is still an abundance of nursing schools in the Philippines, billing over $100 per semester for a four year degree to a profession with not much career prospects given the current economic situation. There have not been much press coverage on the matter nor has local legislation considered the subject – and people to this day still enroll in nursing schools by the droves, head in the clouds and somewhat mesmerized by visions of a good life abroad.