The Philippines government has come under more pressure to stop sending domestic workers abroad, with a prominent columnist arguing they should be retrained to fill gaps in professional skills at home.

Leandro DD Coronel said in a commentary carried by the Manila Bulletin that most Filipinos employed as domestic workers overseas were university graduates before they left the country.

“How many Filipino teachers, nurses, and other skilled workers are forced to downgrade their skills and degrade their persons by working as service people, a deodorized term for maids and servants?” he asked.

Acknowledging that most Filipinos seek employment abroad because of a lack of job opportunities and low salaries in the Philippines, Coronel called on the government to expand job training through the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority so that skill levels were on a par with or even superior to those available elsewhere.

“So no more dreams of deploying ‘super maids’ to other countries. We either create more jobs here or help working-age Filipinos to acquire skills that are in demand abroad,” he said.

The columnist urged President Rodrigo Duterte and his government to focus on improving people’s livelihoods instead of being preoccupied with an ‘unwinnable’ war on drugs that was falsely seen as his country’s priority problem.

“It isn’t, it’s poverty. Poverty, as every OFW [overseas foreign worker] knows, is what drives them to seek employment abroad even though the work conditions there are abominable. People are poor because there aren’t enough jobs for everybody,” he said.