Working in Australia versus the Philippines: A Couple’s Story

  Rey and Rea moved to Australia in 2006. Almost ten years later, they are still enjoying life down under.   The key influencer?   Work.   The couple had been working in the Philippines for around fifteen years when they made the decision to pack up and take their chances in a different country. They brought their two kids with them.   They have never regretted the decision ever since.   Getting Hired   From the moment they started job hunting in Australia, they knew that this was a far cry from what they have gotten used to in the Philippines.   “There is so much discrimination in the Philippines when it comes to work,” Rea says, “You see job ads that ask for a certain age range, a certain gender, a certain appearance. You even have to add a picture on your CV! That doesn’t happen here. Do that here and you’ll be in trouble for job discrimination.”   And it is quite true. In the Philippines, job ads would make a lot of references to things that should not even matter for specific job descriptions.   “People here focus on what you can do. They look at work experience and training. The important thing is you can do the job well,” Rey adds. “It doesn’t even matter if you have a degree or not. You can be manager even if you didn’t graduate from a university. I have a Master’s Degree from the Philippines, but my former boss was still completing his Bachelor’s online. It doesn’t matter as much here.”   In the Philippines, it matters what school you came from and what kind of education you had. People deny it all the time and even make jokes out of it, but it’s not as funny to the graduate from an unknown school lining up to grab the same opportunity that everyone else is aiming for.   In the end, the ones from the top schools get in regardless of how their grades were or if they even had any experience in the field.   This is one reason why Filipinos have embraced the BPO industry. It’s the one industry that gives everyone a chance, regardless of what degree you hold. As long as you have what it takes to excel and stand out, you’re in.   For those in other industries however, this does not happen. Sure, you need lawyers to pass the bar exams, and the doctors to complete their medical degrees and their residency. But if even office assistants need degrees in business, what chance do others have, even if they have the skillset for it?   The People   “In the Philippines, you’ll see people grabbing opportunities to become the boss because they see it as an opportunity to ask people to do things for them,” Rea says. “Dito, it’s different. Even bosses would photocopy stuff themselves. They hold doors open for other people. Sure, they have assistants, and they ask their assistants to do stuff for them. But only if they’re busy.”   They both point out that of course, there may be a few exceptions to the rule. But generally, bosses in Australia work just as hard as everybody else. They have hectic schedules. They have exhausting days.   They remember things to be quite different when they were still in the Philippines.   “Ganun pa din ba diyan?” Rey asks, “When I was working in Makati, the boss would have the coffee pot right next to him but he would still ask his assistant to fix a cuppa for him. I jumped from one company to another, and it was the same thing. It’s like they see their title as an excuse to be lazy.”   Of course, I told him that a lot of employers have become a little more modern here. But you can’t deny the fact that for a lot of traditional businesses, this scenario is still very much familiar.   Also, people in Australia call each other using their first names regardless of what title they hold. “In the Philippines, people expect to be called Mam, Sir, or Boss the moment they get promoted, even if it’s just a supervisory position and not even a top management role,” Rea says. “That doesn’t happen here. We all call each other by name, even if that person’s a VP.”   The Benefits   “Wow, the benefits are amazing,” Rea says. “You hear a lot of people here complaining, but then again, they probably didn’t experience working in the Philippines.”   When Rea gave birth to their youngest, she was granted a year-long maternity leave. And yes, it was paid.   She also says that people were extremely understanding. “Our office did not have a room for breastfeeding, so my boss would let me use one of the meeting rooms to extract milk when I needed to.”   They would also understand if you would have to take an extra day off if your kids are sick. We have a carer’s leave for that. We also have an annual leave and a long service leave.   In the Philippines, you would see memes all over social media about people getting on submarines just to get to work when there’s flooding everywhere. Funny as the memes may be, they actually show reality.   And yes, even gym memberships come with the package aside from the usual health insurance.   Overtime is never mandatory and is actually frowned upon sometimes.   “There was this one time when we were still in Melbourne, I didn’t notice that I went beyond office hours. Napagalitan ako,” Rey shares. “I was used to racking up OT hours in the Philippines, so I was really surprised. Here, they expect you to finish the job within your work hours. If you don’t get the chance to finish it, you can always do it the next day. Overtime is really expensive din so employers would prefer that everybody finishes their job on time.”   They also share that people here put a lot of importance in personal time.   “They want you to raise your kids well and to do that, they know that you have to spend time with them,” Rea says. “When we were in the Philippines, we missed out on a lot because we were always at work.” Of course, the couple also shares that their experiences extend only to their own experience. They first lived in Melbourne, but moved to Perth because of a career opportunity 2 years ago.   “I guess it varies, but when we talk to other Filipinos here, the sentiments are usually the same,” they say.   When asked if they would ever work in the Philippines again, they both had the same answer.   “Definitely not! Siguro we can try starting a business of our own, but after experiencing what it’s like to work here? It’s going to be tough having to readjust again. We miss the Philippines, but when it comes to work, things are definitely a lot better here.”   Of course, some would think that they have it easy because they have their entire family with them and would not have to suffer from the usual loneliness that a lot of skilled workers go through.   But then again, if working opportunities and conditions play a huge role in your decision to leave the Philippines, then you’d probably understand where they’re coming from.   Special thanks to Johannes Ibanez for the main image.

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