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Pinoy Abroad

UK-based OFWs feeling the crunch of Brexit

Weeks before the United Kingdom's referendum on its European Union membership, Allan Paracale, a data analyst in England, sent an email to his wife in the Philippines telling her to "prepare to receive less."

If asked, Paracale won't be able to explain the nitty-gritty of Brexit, but, having been an OFW for eight years now, including a three-year stint in Paris, he knew "in my gut" that whatever the outcome of the referendum will be will have an effect of the value of pound vis-à-vis the peso.

His fears, as it turned out, was not unfounded. Days after the UK voted to cut its membership to the powerful EU, the pound's sterling's value drastically dropped, with its valuation sinking to as low as P60.8 per £1 last week from  P67 at the start of June.

"So tama lang yung naging warning ko," Paracale told GMA News Online. "Yung family ko, di na sila na-surprise. Nagsimula na silang maghigpit ng sinturon even before [Brexit]."

According to the Philippine Embassy in London, about 200,000 Filipinos live in the United Kingdom, most of them working in the health, domestic, and hospitality sector — jobs made stable by the UK's flexible exchange rate, openness to immigration, and movement of workers inside and out of the EU.

While British Ambassador to the Philippines Asif Ahmad has downplayed Brexit's possible abrupt effects to Filipinos in the UK, Philippine financial markets felt a slight downward shift due to what analysts described as knee-jerk reactions to the exit.

Paracale was not the only one. Hazel Gamit, who is based in London, said she in light of Brexit and its effect on the value of pounds, she needs "to work more extra hours to top up the amount that I need to send to my families back home."

"I need to work extra hours or do an overtime to pay all my bills here and my everyday needs," she added, pointing out that her family now needs supplemental income due to the exchange rate's instability and the stagnancy of her salary.

"It's affecting my families in the Philippines due to rapid drop on the exchange rate. There's no increase in the salary but we need to increase the amount that we need to send to our family and we need to work extra hours to meet these needs," she said.

Debbie Buhalog-Quintos, whose husband works as a bartender in South London, concurred and, much like Gamit, speculated that the fluctuations were mainly due to the referendum.

"The exchange rate [went] down, I guess, because of people not being happy with the outcome of the referendum. And many businesses have lower incomes because of it," Quintos said.

Where they differ is their opinion on the long-term effects of Brexit.

Gamit believes it would benefit workers in the end even if salaries and benefits will not experience the same boost.

"Looking forward to the promises that Brexit will bring us soon, especially to the economy. [It would bring] more jobs, increase pension benefits, and lower (the) pension age limit," she said.

Still, it is reported that some 80,000 jobs in the financial, insurance, pharmaceutical, and biotechnology sectors can be moved out of UK to other European countries as a result of Brexit, 

Forbes and the Independent pointed out that up to 80,000 jobs can be moved to other European countries if major companies lose passporting, or the ability to do business with the E.U., after Brexit.

Quintos said she and her friends who voted anti-Brexit are concerned that the result of the referendum would affect her and others who don't possess British passports, and aspiring immigrants who wish to enter the UK in the future.

"Those who have British passports probably vote out because [of the] benefits it will give them. But some who are concerned about others, their relatives and friends, who do not have British passport voted [to] remain 'cause it will affect them greatly- especially the people who intend to enter Britain," she said. —KBK, GMA News