East Asia

, Volume 26, Issue 2, pp 113–131 | Cite as

Global Economic Changes and the Commodification of Human Capital: Implications of Filipino Nurse Migration



East Asia’s economic prowess strongly impacted the research agenda of scholars studying the region. Whereas analysts had once focused on military governments, relations of dependency, clientelism, and low modes of peasant movements, they now investigate industrialisation. In East Asia, the Philippines is the largest contributor of migrant labourers to the global workforce. Following recent discussions by Robert Putnam on the social aspect of investment, perhaps human capital might then be considered part of the industrialisation process? Channelling human resources towards expediting industrialisation can be a catalyst for development. This article seeks to combine a variety of theoretical literatures with insights gained from conducting fieldwork and available empirical data, presenting its main findings in two major parts. The first focuses on the relationship between human capital, migration and economic growth, and suggests that social capital, particularly human resources, can help economic growth in developing countries if channelled appropriately. The second is a case study of the Philippines as the second largest exporter of human labour in the world, with human capital as its largest export commodity. A key feature of the research identifies the significance of commodifying human capital. The author argues that maximizing human resources, as a potential and un-channelled catalyst for improved economic growth is a good investment in social capital. By transforming human resources into a trade commodity, this economic transaction between labour-sending (parent) and labour-receiving (host) countries becomes a rational process that takes on emotional qualities, and must be considered where the trade of human labour is concerned.


Development Human capital Migrant workers Philippines Trade 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.International Studies DepartmentDe La Salle UniversityMetro ManilaPhilippines

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