Competing Policies within the Sending State: Labour Export and the Provision of Primary Healthcare in the Philippines

Romeo Luis A. Macabasag, Ateneo de Manila University
Yasmin Y. Ortiga, Singapore Management University


In framing nations as places that either send or receive migrants, there is a danger in defining migrant-sending nations as monolithic entities driven by a single mandate of exporting labour to a global economy. Using the concept of viscosity, we argue that sending states comprise multiple state agencies with varying interests, which can either impede, slow, or facilitate labour emigration. We demonstrate our argument by examining the Philippines' nurse retention policies against the backdrop of the country's labour export policies. While these retention policies led to an influx of Filipino nurses to rural health centres, these nurses considered such mobility a means to wait out the lack of opportunities for nurses overseas. Thus, inadvertently serving the interests of the Philippines' labour-exporting regime. We argue that a nuanced view of sending states advances our understanding of how migrant-sending nations balance emigration policies with other government interests beyond labour export.