The hardworking Filipino is an iconic figure in a rapidly globalised world, one that is emblematic of high achievers like Froilan Malit Jr, whose tenacious pursuit of education and opportunity has brought him to the UAE.
A migrant success story from the Philippines to Dubai via the US
From cleaning gymnasium floors to graduating from America’s prestigious Cornell University, Froilan Malit Jr is proof of the opportunities and successes that global migration can create.
The 27-year-old American-Filipino is the son of a migrant family, and he is now working in Dubai. So it is only fitting that he is now a specialist in migrant labour for the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation.
“My siblings and I were left to the care of our grandparents when my mother emigrated to the United States in the late 1980s, making us part of the children left behind story of migration in the Philippines,” Mr Malit says.
A tenth of the country’s population works abroad to support their families, which leaves about nine million Filipino children without a parent.
Mr Malit’s aunts, uncles and cousins also left their province to work at Japanese and Chinese factories in Manila, while others ventured outside the country and became labourers in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
At 16, Mr Malit moved to California after he and his siblings were petitioned to enter the US as permanent residents.
He worked odd jobs as a gym cleaner, gardener and maths tutor to pay for his school tuition and SAT review preparations.
He was pulled towards the study of migration and gained acceptance to Cornell University, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in industrial and labour relations with honours.
He later moved to New York and earned a master’s degree in migration studies from Oxford University North America.
In 2009, he moved to the UAE as a graduate summer research intern at the Dubai School of Government, now called Mohammed bin Rashid School of Government.
“I eventually returned to the UAE in 2012 to work full-time, while I simultaneously continued my work for a professor at the school of government from 2009 until 2014,” he says.
Mr Malit has spent six years working for governments, international organisations, and academic and think-thank institutions in the GCC, where he specialises in labour migration.
He works as a project manager under the international relations department at the ministry and the Abu Dhabi Dialogue Permanent Office.
“I am motivated mostly by my childhood experiences, as well as my passion to serve the underserved communities,” he says.
“By examining and contributing to the migration policy discourse through writing or dialogues, I believe I can bring a certain perspective that could improve or develop certain programmes and initiatives to benefit migrants.”
The UAE, he says, has continued to achieve significant strides in improving workers’ rights through protection policies and national and regional consultative dialogues.
“The UAE’s wage protection system and the Abu Dhabi Dialogue, a consultative dialogue process between Asian and GCC governments, are among the UAE’s major strides.”
When Mr Malit is not busy at work he can be found playing beach volleyball or roaming the streets of Satwa and Al Dhiyafa as early as 5.30am.
“I enjoy listening to the silence in the morning and appreciate the urban landscape of these small migrant communities in Dubai,” he says.
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, there are 575,000 Filipinos living and working in the UAE although the 2012 Commission of Filipinos Overseas puts the figure as high as 900,000 people.
“I am proud of the unconditional love and hardworking nature of all Filipino migrants who have come to the UAE and elsewhere abroad to provide better opportunities and future for their children and extended families back home,” Mr Malit says.
“Filipino migrants’ sacrifices in the UAE reflect my parent’s very own sacrifices when I was young. They are, indeed, the backbone of the Philippine economy.”