Known for its abundance of volcanoes, enchanting forests and picturesque beaches, the Philippines boasts an attractive cost of living and immersive lifestyle that attracts expats the world over. This archipelago of more than 7,000 islands is home to over 100 dialects and plenty of ethnicities, and the introduction of expats to the society has created an even bigger melting pot of cultures. 

Read on to learn about diversity and inclusion in the social landscape of the Philippines.

Accessibility in the Philippines

The Philippines has a number of laws that prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities, but an analysis commissioned by The Asia Foundation in 2021 found that there are still huge challenges for those with disabilities. These include inaccessible buildings and infrastructure, lack of accessible transportation, and obstacles to education and healthcare, employment, and participation in public life.

Manila is one of the least accessible major cities in Asia, and is short of basic infrastructure to assist those with disabilities. There are few ramps, handrails or accessible toilets, and no tactile paving for the visually impaired. Even public buildings fail to comply with the country’s accessibility laws, and few include facilities to help people with mobility, hearing, and visual impairments.

Ride-hailing application, Grab, offers a wheelchair assistance service for people living with disabilities and the elderly and is a fantastic option for those in need of accessible transport. 

Further reading

Philippine Accessible Disability Services – Support for People Living with Disabilities

LGBTQ+ in the Philippines

The Philippines does not legally recognise same-sex partnerships, either in the form of marriage or civil unions. Sexual activity between people of the same sex is legal as long as it is in private. It is not possible for transgender individuals to change their legal gender as listed on their birth certificates.

A 2013, an anti-bullying law was passed that outlaws any act that humiliates or excludes people based on their sexual orientation, but other bills aimed at ensuring LGBTQ+ rights have failed to pass at the national level.

While there are some challenges to the gay community in the Philippines, the country is one of the most gay-friendly in Asia. There are plenty of gay bars and clubs in the capital, Manila.

Further reading

Outrage Magazine – LGBTQ+ Publication

Gender equality in the Philippines

The Philippines is one of the most gender-equal countries in the world, and has the lowest overall gender gap in Asia, according to a report by a World Economic Forum in 2022. These results are often attributed to government policies that aim to promote women’s rights, including the 2012 Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act.

Despite this, the Philippines has the lowest rate of female labour force participation in Southeast Asia at just 46 percent. This is largely attributed to the underlying social norms, where women take on the bulk of both childcare and care of the elderly.

According to Grant Thornton’s Women in Business 2022 survey, gender equality policies are abundant and widespread within businesses in the Philippines, with 81 percent having equal pay for men and women performing the same roles, and 71 percent having non-discrimination policies for recruitment. Many businesses also provide help for working parents – 59 percent offer paid parental leave and almost 60 percent offer either flexible hours or part-time working.

Further reading

Women in Business 2022

Women in leadership in the Philippines

The Grant Thornton survey found that women hold 47 percent of senior management posts in the Philippines, far exceeding the world average of 24 percent. The report also found that 75 percent of businesses have at least one woman in senior management.

A World Economic Forum report, based on LinkedIn data from 2022, ranked the Philippines fourth globally for representation of women in leadership positions.

Despite the progress within business, women remain underrepresented in parliament in the Philippines. Just 23 percent of elected officials are women and, in the Senate, only seven out of 24 senators are female. Two of the last seven presidents of the Philippines have been female.

Mental health awareness in the Philippines

The stress associated with moving home, job and school means that expats are often at greater risk of developing mental health problems, especially depression and anxiety. International companies are becoming more aware of mental health issues, and many have adjusted their policies to provide better support. This includes ensuring that mental health treatment is well covered by the company’s chosen employee healthcare schemes.

Mental healthcare services remain woefully under-resourced in the Philippines, with a lack of mental health professionals within the country. This shortage is amplified by the emigration of many trained specialists to other countries. To address this, the government passed a Mental Health Act in 2019, which seeks to establish access to comprehensive and integrated mental health services while protecting the rights of people with mental disorders and their family members.

Most expats living in the Philippines will have private health insurance, which gives them access to the better private hospitals. Insurance companies should be able to provide a list of recommended mental health professionals. There are also a number of organisations that offer services to expats living in the Philippines, including In Touch, a volunteer-led organisation with a multilingual team of psychologists, psychiatrists, and coaches.

Further reading

In Touch Community Services – English-speaking Mental Health Services 
#MentalHealthPH – Mental Health Awareness Organisations

Unconscious bias training in the Philippines

Unconscious bias is an implicit set of often stereotyped ideas an individual carries about groups of people different to themselves. These ideas are not purposefully adopted but rather develop subtly over time, and people tend to hold unconscious biases about groups they never or rarely come into contact with.

Unconscious bias can profoundly affect both personal and work conditions. In the workplace, unchecked bias undermines vital aspects of the company, with negative effects on employee performance, retention, and recruitment. In a bid to create a better work environment, many companies are beginning to institute unconscious bias training. There are also a number of online resources that can be used to improve self-awareness regarding bias.

Useful resources

Project Implicit 
Unconscious Bias Training

Diversification of the workforce in the Philippines

While the Philippines is a homogeneous nation, there are hundreds of dialects and ethnic groups. Most people will find the locals extremely friendly and welcoming. Manila is the most diverse city in the country, and it’s not unusual to see people from every continent sitting in restaurants or walking through the business districts. The largest expat communities are from countries such as the US, China and Japan.

Most companies now recognise the benefits of a workplace that champions diversity, equity, and inclusion. Studies have shown that organisations with a diverse and inclusive workforce are happier and more productive, as diversity often breeds creativity and innovation.

Safety in the Philippines

Most parts of the Philippines have fairly low crime rates, but certain areas should be avoided. Metro Manila, for example, has high crime rates. It’s also important to take local advice before travelling to some of the outlying islands. Foreigners should take the same common-sense precautions in the Philippines as they would anywhere else.

Scammers have been known to target foreigners under the assumption that they are tourists. To stay safe, expats should keep all valuables tucked safely away and remain aware of their surroundings while drawing money at an ATM or opening their wallet to pay for something in cash. When using a bank card or credit card to pay, expats should not let it be taken out of their sight due to the possibility of card cloning.

Calendar initiatives in the Philippines

4 February – World Cancer Day
28 February – Rare Disease Day
March – TB Awareness Month
8 March – International Women’s Day
17 May – International Day Against Homophobia
19 May – Global Accessibility Awareness Day
10 September – World Suicide Prevention Day
October – Breast Cancer Awareness Month
10 October –World Mental Health Day
14 November – World Diabetes Day
1 December – World AIDS Day

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