Public-Private Partnerships in the Philippines: Testing a New Model for Business and Government Engagement

5 March 2019
Research Innovation

The first in a mini-series on our programme in the Philippines, this article explores GFEMS’s approach to addressing modern slavery in a sustainable and scalable way: building public-private partnerships in target geographies and sectors. Subsequent posts will focus on other critical components of this initiative including effective rule of law, robust impact assessment and vision for scale.

As part of our grant portfolio, the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery (GFEMS) is developing and testing a new model for reducing prevalence of forced labour among Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs). GFEMS’s goal is to reduce prevalence of modern slavery sustainably and at scale. This requires coordinated mobilization of government and private sector resources to generate solutions that can be sustained beyond donor funding and scaled to reach large populations.

To catalyse this mobilization and lay the groundwork for a public-private partnership (PPP), GFEMS’s programme leverages government and private sector priorities to address the needs of vulnerable Filipino migrant workers. In the Philippines, the primary opportunities for alignment include:

  • Government concern for the safety of the approximately 2.3 million Filipinos migrating for work every year;
  • Government focus on “Build, Build, Build”, a massive infrastructure and construction initiative with an estimated cost of USD 180 billion; and
  • Private sector demand for locally recruited skilled and semi-skilled construction workers that meet market need.

Leveraging the nexus of these concerns allows GFEMS to build a PPP focused on reducing forced labour of Filipino migrant workers in a targeted and specific way. By partnering with government, the poverty alleviation fund Villar-SIPAG and private sector construction companies, GFEMS launched a programme to train the most vulnerable workers, especially women, in construction jobs. After completing the training, these workers are guaranteed jobs with a local ethical employer, thereby creating safe employment at home as an alternative to risky migration.

Manila, Philippines. Bash Carlos/Unsplash.

Generating buy-in: Identifying and leveraging public sector priorities

To secure buy-in for this early stage PPP, GFEMS leveraged key intersections of Philippine Government and private sector priorities. For the Government, sending migrant workers overseas is an important economic priority. Recent studies estimate that inward remittances nearing USD 30 billion make up almost 10 per cent of total gross domestic product. However, migration overseas, often into low-skill industries such as domestic work, is a real risk and can lead to forced labour and human trafficking. An estimated 900,000 Filipino workers are deployed into low-skill occupations each year, and while the prevalence of forced labour among these migrants has not been well measured, it is believed to be as high as 20 per cent among female domestic workers, according to our partners on the ground. Protecting these migrants remains a key objective of the Government.

The current administration has also prioritized a massive infrastructure initiative, “Build, Build, Build”, and is investing billions in domestic construction projects. While the initiative opens a door for Filipino workers with the right training to gain employment at home, it also exacerbates the skilled and semi-skilled labour shortage construction companies in the Philippines are already facing. The nexus of these public sector priorities with private sector need creates an opportunity to pull together partners to address forced labour of migrant workers.

Putting the pieces together

GFEMS is acting on this opportunity by collaborating with Villar SIPAG to create a new model of private sector engagement and mobilization of government resources, that was designed through an interactive co-creation process with GFEMS’s partners on the ground. The model includes a robust training programme, conducted by Villar SIPAG with guidance from GFEMS, that uses mobile training units to prepare workers in the most vulnerable communities for jobs that are in high demand, such as welders, painter and masons. Participants in the programme also complete an anti-trafficking curriculum, ensuring that they can identify and respond to situations that might lead to trafficking. After completing both modules, Villar SIPAG will place workers in sustainable jobs with large real estate developers across the Philippines.

The dual-curriculum that workers complete and guaranteed employment address each of the Government and private sector priorities listed above, offering a domestic, market-based alternative to overseas migration, filling the shortage of skilled and semi-skilled workers in the Philippines, and improving protections for workers who still choose to go abroad.

In executing this partnership, GFEMS is investing approximately USD 600,000 of seed funding and leveraging over USD 1.1 million from Villar SIPAG. The programme also utilizes over USD 340,000 in government training vouchers, made available by the Government of the Philippines’ Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

Looking forward

GFEMS’s collaboration in the Philippines is a promising first step to building market-based solutions to trafficking. Though this programme is in its early stages, GFEMS hopes it will provide valuable lessons learned for NGOs, private sector businesses and governments in the development of future PPPs. In the forthcoming posts in this series, we will discuss other critical components of this initiative, including enhancing rule of law, ensuring robust impact assessment and creating a pathway to scale.

This article has been prepared by the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery as a contributor to Delta 8.7. As provided for in the Terms and Conditions of Use of Delta 8.7, the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of UNU or its partners.

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