With the UAE’s agile and solid response to the pandemic and its impact on the economy, Overseas Filipino Worker (OFWs) are now witnessing increasing number of opportunities in the job market—enabling them to continue residing and working here to support their families back home.
Francis Danganan, a chef who has been in the UAE for nearly two decades, said that the pandemic cost him a job he has been doing for the past several years—something he did not expect.
He said that the restaurant in Al Ain where he served as a head chef could no longer sustain his salary, forcing him to quit in order to search for other income opportunities that would help him sustain his family’s needs.
“Nagtiis lang ako ilang buwan kasi below half ng salary ang binibigay sakin. Kaya nagpaalam ako,” he said, adding that matters worsened when his wife was also put under a no-work-no-pay scheme for several months.
Danganan saw a glimmer of hope when the hospitality and dining industry in the UAE started to get back on track. He was hired in late 2020 as a head chef of a restaurant in Abu Dhabi, and in early this year, he became a part-time culinary instructor at Maharlika Academy in Al Whada Business Center.
Anthony Plasabas also expressed renewed hope and optimism regarding the recovery of the career market in the UAE in 2021, noting his experience in finding a new job after several months of being unemployed due to the pandemic.
The Dubai-based OFW was one of the many who were displaced from work as companies made the hard decision to cut jobs and salaries in order to survive the crisis. He said that he was made redundant in June by his former employer after working as a designer for six years.
“Nagulat ako dahil ilang taon na ako dun sa pinagtatrabuhan ko pero dahil lang sa pandemic nagbago ang lahat. Napaisip din ako kung paano ko masusustentuhan ang pamilya ko lalo na ang tatay ko na kailangan ng medication,” he said.
Fortunately, before the start of the year, however, he found another job as a designer and marketing associate for a floral conglomerate.
Plasabas also stressed that he now sees many companies in the UAE starting re-hire professionals—a strong indication that the country’s job market is recovering faster than anticipated.
“Natuwa ako kasi balik trabaho na ako at makakapagsustento na ulit ako. Doon ko din na-realize na bumabangon na ulit ang UAE kasi dumadami na ulit ngayon ang hiring sa iba’t ibang industry, kahit sa mga considered na non-essential. Madami na din akong kilalang mga nakahanap na ulit ng trabaho,” he said.
Danganan and Plasabas are among the many Filipinos in the UAE who have been blessed with new career opportunities as we rang in the year 2021. Indeed, this year is proving to be a year of fresh beginnings for those who waited patiently and did not lose hope.
Experts believe that the year 2021 will favorably set a clearer horizon for OFWs in the UAE—noting the many sectors that will further boom this year, as well as how Filipinos’ characteristics will allow them to flourish professionally.
Sectors on the rise
HR expert Florendo Padilla, Founder and Managing Director of Black Pearl Consult stressed that the healthcare sector will continue to conduct research and development in partnership with AI and technology sectors. “This is to create effective ways to avoid and manage another pandemic in the future,” he said.
He added that new technologies are being created to address data protection and management, especially since virtual transactions are more encouraged to ensure the health and safety among government and private entities.
“During the pandemic, a number of entities have had their sensitive data at risk of exposure to some illegal activities online. With these, companies will continue to tighten up their cybersecurity and the compliance structure of their business technology,” Padilla said.
Padilla also noted that the hospitality and tourism sector will pick up the pace this year especially with the upcoming Expo 2020.
Meanwhile, Cristina Calaguian, the founder of an HR consultancy and recruitment company, stated that the pandemic has opened the eyes of many companies to the importance of technology in business continuity, a reason the IT, e-commerce, and software engineering sectors will be in demand in 2021.
“A lot of companies have now realized that technology is the lifeblood of the economy and it is the only industry that weathered the pandemic, one that can adapt quickly to changes and innovation. Tech companies have more chances of attaining a prosperous rebound as almost every industry is dependent on technology now,” she said.
Peteromy Dominic, a Senior HR Officer in a government-owned healthcare facility, said that the healthcare sector will always be in demand because medical workers are vital to health crises such as this pandemic.
“With the pandemic, healthcare sector will still be in demand not only in UAE but around the world because we need more healthcare frontliners to deliver quality patient care,” he said.
The edge of Filipinos
According to Padilla, many employers prefer Filipino candidates in the job search because they are committed to their work and are ultimate multitaskers.
He added that during job interviews, employers also feel the sincerity of Filipinos, noting their genuine passion that shows just how much they really want the job.
“Because of the positive persona of Filipinos, it is so easy for any hiring managers to consider them for a job. They are very hardworking and committed. Their positive energy is so contagious. This is why there is a huge population of Filipinos working in hospitality, retail, banking or even in healthcare sectors. Any client facing jobs, if not Arabic, you will always find a Filipino worker,” he said.
Dominic also noted the perseverance and resilience of Filipinos—delivering tasks with utmost prudence no matter the situation.
“Among the traits that make Filipinos stand out include resourcefulness, skillfulness, adaptability, innovativeness, and being hospitable. Once you give a task to any Filipino, no matter what hindrance he or she may encounter, you know that he or she will deliver good result,” he said.
Calaguian also underscored the enthusiasm and politeness of Filipinos in their work, as well as their prowess in the job
“Filipinos also have good command of English along with good general standard of education. They also have willingness to learn new skills, they are hard working, and they have a sense of responsibility,” she said.
2021: A fresh start for OFWs
Danganan said he remains positive towards the success of Filipinos in the UAE this year, especially as the leaders’ constant innovative initiatives in order to counter the blow of the crisis—such as its national vaccination campaign, continuous mass testing, innovation in treatment, and constant monitoring of the pandemic—are finally allowing businesses and activities to prosperously resume ahead of everyone else.
“Ngayong 2021, nagsisimula nag magbalikan ang mga opportunities, daming hiring sa mga food busines. Itong taon ay panibagong buhay. Simula na tayong bumangon at harapin ang mga bagong hamon ng buhay,” he said.
Plasabas also stressed that he vowed to help other Filipinos who have yet to find work this year, the way his friends helped him back when he was still struggling.
“Ngayong 2021, bukod sa panibagong simula, gusto kong makatulong din sa mga kababayan kong naghahanap pa din ngayon ng work. Gusto ko ibalik ang tulong na natanggap ko noong ako ang walang trabaho,” he said.
Danganan, meanwhile, advised his fellow OFWs not to be too picky in terms of opportunity that comes their way.
“Sa mga naghahanap ng trabaho, huwag po munang pumili at maging mas open tayo sa job opportunities kasi sa panahon ngayon ang labanan ay ang maka-survive ka sa panahon ito. After this, sigurado akong makakahanap na muli tayo ng magandang trabaho,” he said.
Upskilling: Still the best way forward in 2021
Now more than ever, the importance of investing in skills enhancement cannot be stressed enough. Since the competition will be tough in terms of job hunting as a result of massive redundancies, employers will now be looking at those who have more skills and qualifications, as well as those who can present more certifications and diplomas either from educational institutions or through webinars online. Knowledge on digital tools will also be imperative today because it is going to be the future of employment in the post-crisis era.
Fortunately, Calaguian said that it is now easy to be multi-skilled in this age because information is readily available and accessible on the internet.
“There is no excuse not to be upskilled. When you have more skills, you will be confident to apply to that position you want,” she said. “Besides, here in the UAE, you will realize that you are looking for employment alongside so 200 nationalities as well with different skills. The competition is tough.”
Dominic also stressed the importance of updating credentials and taking up certifications in order to edge out other applicants in one’s dream job.
“Upskilling is important for you to update yourself in terms of what is the current best practice in the industry and for you to be able to compete on the same ground level with other job applicants,” he said.
Those who wish to thrive in today’s labor market should enhance their skills in areas they are weak at, according to Padilla, and that they can do it through either taking up online classes or joining online groups that can help tackle their weaknesses.
“While it is important to continue to develop the skills you already have, it is vital to learn something new to you or outside your current field or specialization. Learn as much as you can and continue to develop your skills even you have already landed a job or are currently employed. Never stop developing your skills,” he said. “There is no one who can help you survive another crisis than yourself. It is only you who make things happen and not others.”