MANILA, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Oct. 16, 2010) - The number of Filipino nurses aspiring to practice their profession in America continued to drop year-on-year in the third quarter, the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines reported on Saturday.
Ernesto Herrera, TUCP secretary-general, said only 2,227 Filipino nurses took the US NCLEX for the first time from July to September, down 38 percent or 1,355 fewer compared to the 3,582 in the same three-month period in 2009.
TUCP now expects some 5,000 fewer Filipino nurses taking the NCLEX the whole of this year, according to Herrera, former chairman of the Senate committee on labor, employment and human resources development.
Thus far, a total of 7,780 Filipino nurses took the NCLEX for the first time from January to September, down 35 percent or 4,074 less versus the 11,854 in the same nine-month period last year.
The NCLEX is the licensure exam administered by the US National Council of State Boards of Nursing Inc. The number of Filipino nurses taking the test for the first time is a reliable indicator as to how many of them are trying to enter the profession in the US, Herrera said.
A total of 15,382 Filipino nurses took the NCLEX for the first time in the whole of 2009, down 5,364 or 26 percent from 20,746 in 2008. All told, since 2005, some 90,000 Filipino nurses have taken the NCLEX for the first time, that is, excluding repeaters.
Despite the decline in the number of Filipinos nurses seeking US employment, Herrera said the Philippines remains America's largest supplier of new foreign nurses, after India, South Korea, Canada and Nigeria.
Outside the US, the Philippines is also the United Kingdom's third biggest supplier of new foreign nurses, after India and Australia.
Herrera said many Filipino nurses have temporarily sought employment in local industries, mainly services, while waiting for more gainful work in foreign labor markets.
"We now have thousands of registered nurses engaged in services that have nothing to do with their profession, working as contact center staff, baristas, cashiers, even lotto terminal operators," Herrera said.
The Philippine Nurses Association (PNA) earlier estimated at 200,000 the jobless nurses in the country. "A total of 37,679 new practitioners passed the local licensure exam in July. They are now competing for jobs with some 160,000 unemployed nurses," PNA said.
TUCP supports the continued deployment of Filipino nurses to lucrative overseas labor markets. "We obviously have a large surplus of nurses," Herrera said.
"We would prefer that government encourage the deployment of nurses, and discourage the placement of domestic helpers overseas," Herrera said.
"Filipino nurses abroad are generally less vulnerable to employer abuse. Their skills protect them. Their skills are not easy to replace, so employers are careful not to mistreat and drive them away," he said.
"As to domestic helpers, they are extremely susceptible to abuse because they live with their employers, and their skills are easy to replace," Herrera said.
"In Hong Kong for instance, for every Filipino domestic helper, there could be dozens of Indonesians, Thais and even local Chinese replacements waiting in line. This is also true in the Middle East. Potential substitutes from Sri Lanka and Indonesia abound," he added.