When my husband first started talking about hiring an online worker from the Philippines, I was horrified. I didn’t have the best perspective of the country. I saw it as a third world, ‘developing’ country where everyone was poor and struggling.
I also saw this alternative method of employment as exploitative, and that this new trend was going to deprive fellow Australians of jobs that they need. Then there were posts and comments on social media that mirrored my thoughts and fears.
Put all of these together, and you’ve got someone whose questions, thoughts and assumptions have gotten the best of me. Everything about this idea completely contradicted my views.
Needless to say, I was opposed to the idea of hiring online workers.
Often our understanding about developing countries like the Philippines is confined to how the media portrays it. Many child sponsorship charities show us pictures of sick, starving and uneducated children. Documentaries often portray outsourcing as always wrong and exploitative.
We view the developing world as a drowning system that is broken and miserable, where the only way forward is charity, and our guidance is necessary for their survival. The media purposely aims to make us feel praiseworthy when we make even the smallest of contributions. If we all switch to fair trade chocolate, child slavery will vanish, they say.
Please know that I am not against community development or the buying of fair trade products. In fact, I know these things are necessary for world change, but they are merely a small part of global transformation.
Additionally, while I am not denying the existence of poverty in the Philippines, there is another side that we are not exposed to.
Did you know that the country has one of the fastest growing economies in the world? That there is a thriving arts community? That there are universities full of young people learning, becoming the professionals of tomorrow?
No? Me neither. My image of the country included sweatshops and shanties, that the people we would be potentially employing would not have enough money to live on a daily basis. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Through building AwayTeam™, I have learned that economic development is necessary for global transformation and I don’t deserve a job any more than someone in another country. We are a global society with equal rights to education and employment.
The Filipino culture is forged around the belief that being content is a state of mind and does not relate to the amount and worth of possessions. Therefore, being poor does not correlate to unhappiness.
Our views on developing countries are far off from what it is actually like, and the cost of living is far lower over there than it is in developed countries. The term “living wage” does not mean the same wage as you would earn in Australia.
My personal breakthrough happened in October of 2014 when Matt took me to Cebu to meet the online team in person. The experience definitely challenged my initial assumptions and feelings. Since then, my perspective has shifted and things have never been the same - and even for the better!
My husband has been in business for more than 10 years. This had meant until recently that our marriage involved no real holidays, interrupted meals and long working hours. And because of our reality, there were many times that we wanted to just give up and throw in the towel.
Then along came Icee, who began working for him as his Virtual Assistant or a VA. Her job was to basically organize and handle everything, like creating his schedule and taking in phone calls. She was an amazing VA, who went above and beyond her tasks.
When we went away for a family trip, Icee basically took care of the business while we were gone. We weren’t on our phones or refreshing our emails. It was truly a vacation and my husband and I were able to spend quality time with our children.
Having her around has allowed us to begin growing our business for the first time in 5 years.
Through this series, I invite you to learn from my experience and discover the reciprocal benefits of having an online Filipino worker.