‘Job usurpation’ and what it means to the Filipino worker in America

By Ludy Astraquillo Ongkeko, Ph.D.

Interestingly, thanks to some observers’ remarks, this space’s writer ran into a few native Americans who were in prolonged discussion of the immigrant society.

They talked about the national concern of all, or most among them who felt the high unemployment rate sprung from the ‘new’ United States where they feel numbers of their origins have been ‘robbed’ of their employment thus, their comfort zones reduced tremendously.

Knowing of my ethnicity, they added that the Filipino professional contributed to the high rate of employment because of job displacement. The bottom line, they said: ‘job usurpation.’

Let me return to unfamiliar scenes to the populace’s observers. In sociology, its simplest definition is: “a study of the history, development, organization and problems of people living together as social groups.”

Nowhere is the above scene more aptly illustrated in living color than in the U.S., where all kinds of ethnicities are. Of course, it is unavoidable to run into those who feel the impact of job losses.

The multi-faceted ethic climate is accentuated by the increasing shift (decidedly during the last three decades) to studies of interfaces brought about by peoples of various cultures, who also bring with them the social problems inevitably due to their changing lifestyles.

In the above group, the Filipino was known to join the throng of Priority 3, (admitted legally) based on the strength of their professional background and eventually fortified by their successful hurdling of rigid licensing in most metropolitan centers. Some came with pre-arrival arrangements because of their advanced degrees; they met the requirements needed by their employers who guaranteed their employment.

It was the good fortune of the Filipino professional who came after the seventies that their predecessors ‘did well,’ and paved the way for them. Again, some ‘outside’ forces felt threatened when the numbers of Filipino professionals were considerably enhanced who, on the strength of their skills and talents changed the Filipino image of old and the term in describing the Filipino professional referred to the ‘new Filipino.’

Along with her/his counterparts from other lands, the Filipino was judged to have made it here on his own, as the professional world demanded.

But some voices from the mainstream have not taken kindly to those who came here as a result of the priority preference granted to professionals coming from the world over. The same voices (and we hope there aren’t legions of them) have been quick to point out that they feel: how they have been ‘usurped.’

A couple who are former administrators of a board and care clinic did not hesitate to let me know how they felt about ‘job usurpation.’ They immediately illustrated how Filipino caregivers ‘displaced’ them because they accepted ‘longer hours’ at work for less pay: that Filipinos were willing to work even on weekends when as administrators, they did not relish giving up their weekends, was a comparative observation.

Therefore, the Filipino is preferred to her/his counterpart, per the observers I chanced on. My take: thoughts of ‘job usurpation’ should be laid aside. Nobody usurps anyone’s job. If one hurdles job requirements, she/he is almost always assured that the army of the unemployed will not be theirs to join. The willingness to work is there. Why should that trait be turned down when it is there, no ‘forced labor,’ it is something the employee feels she/he can handle.

Personally, all ‘observers’ of the work world here, particularly those who know what it means to earn the qualifications/licensing requirements should respect everyone, regardless of ethnic origins. This writer believes the recognition due the Filipino is in order.

What would appear deplorable in the face of an emerging picture, would be one which presents an unbecoming side of the Filipino who joins the workaday world, armed with professional background pluses or otherwise.

No one should be a judge of anyone’s work regardless of ethnic origins. Not a one should do just that unless she/he is certain that a ‘better’ job could be rendered by those who qualify.

There is no phenomenon called ‘job usurpation.’ Landing of employment opportunities is what it is: those ‘qualified’ are the recipients of being in the army of the employed. By giving the Filipino the genre of ‘job usurpation’ is willfully unkind. That impression should disappear as the Filipino continues to shine in every way as job requirements are


  1. Interesting article, I am subsribed to your blog, and as a native canadian myself, i actually agree with your post, there are other jobs for them to fill, or do what so many others do noadays… go to where the work is!

  2. Lumen wrote:

    Very important good points about Filipino workers is well-discussed by the author. Indeed, Filipinos coming here to America are well-equipped with knowledge and traits to survive the new world they are facing. They are not displacing other people but it is the characteristics of Filipinos to work well until they drop exhausted
    that they are favored over other etnicity. Let them work harder and stop complaining.

  3. Bjorn Karlman wrote:

    This xenophobic talk about job usurpation is completely unAmerican. It is weak, complacent and fear-based. If America is the land of opportunity, Americans should be the best conditioned to grasp this opportunity and understand that the job has to go to the most qualified person. If anything, Filipino workers remind us about what is best about America – the belief that if you work hard you can achieve what you want.

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