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6 reasons why more Filipinos are migrating back to the countryside


May 30, 2023


Today, the Philippines has the dubious distinction of being home to several of the most densely populated cities in the world, with multiple Philippine cities occupying the top spots in a recent World Atlas study. However, the runaway urban migration and growth that has come to characterize the Philippines since the mid-20th century may already be slowing down. 

Even though the urban share of the Philippine population is still continuing to increase, there has been a steady slowdown in urban population growth rates, particularly when taking a macro view of urban migration from the 1960s. Even though the country is on track to becoming primarily urban within this decade, the Philippine countryside is, nonetheless, beginning to see signs of growth due to migration from the cities.

For the first time in recent memory, large numbers of urban Filipinos are migrating to the countryside and not just to the suburbs of major urban centers either. If these trends continue, the Philippine economy and Filipino culture may become far less centralized than they are today, necessitating shifts in how local policymakers, entrepreneurs, scholars, and everyday Filipinos understand their country. In this article, we’ll look into some of the reasons more Filipinos are migrating back to the countryside.

1) Better job opportunities

While economic development and job generation remain largely concentrated in Metro Manila, regional cities and municipalities have also been able to benefit from the economic successes gained by the Philippines in the early 21st century. In particular, the creation of economic estates by developers like Aboitiz InfraCapital has created a surge in high-quality jobs in the Philippine countryside.

Coupled with lower living costs, the ready availability of high-paying jobs outside of Metro Manila and Cebu has already attracted thousands of urban migrants back to their hometowns. The influx of talented working-age individuals, investors, and entrepreneurs to the provinces has, in turn, spurred local economic activity, further slowing down rural talent flight and attracting even more urban migrants to return.

2) Lower living costs

As alluded to in the previous point, the Philippine countryside offers a lower cost of living compared to urban areas, often dramatically so. Manila was recently named by data aggregator iPrice Group as the third most expensive city in Southeast Asia, which is an odd distinction given that the Philippines has among the lowest salaries in the region. With the price of food and housing often just half or even less than what it is in Metro Manila, it’s no wonder many urban migrants leave once they can secure a decent job back home.

3) Better access to land

Many less-privileged Filipinos have a lifelong goal of becoming property owners. As land prices in the provinces tend to be significantly cheaper than in major urban centers, this goal is much more achievable in the countryside. This makes country life more attractive for many Filipinos serious about building a home, going into farming, or establishing their own business.

4) Stronger family ties

Even before the recent trend of Filipinos moving back to the countryside for economic and financial reasons, moving back because of family ties has long been a recognized phenomenon. Before the country’s recent economic success, leaving one’s high-paying job in the city to be back home with family often entailed massive financial sacrifices. With better-paying jobs now easier to find in the provinces, leaving the city has become far less of a financial dilemma for many family-oriented Filipinos.

5) Better digital connectivity

The ongoing expansion of digital infrastructure in rural areas has permitted thousands of migrant knowledge workers to do their jobs in their hometowns. With more businesses than ever before turning to work-from-home arrangements to limit health risks and reduce office-related overheads, moving back home has become more popular with this class of urban migrants. In addition, the expansion of rural digital infrastructure has led to the proliferation of digital nomads with urban roots that enjoy the more laid-back lifestyles associated with the Philippine countryside.

6) Less stressful living conditions

While salaries and business opportunities tend to be better in cities, the stress that accompanies these also tends to be high, particularly in densely-populated areas such as Metro Manila. Even the most motivated Filipinos may find the noise, air pollution, traffic, and competition exhausting to deal with. Additionally, despite the higher salaries, a growing number of urban Filipinos find life in big cities difficult on their financial stability, leading to even more stress.

As a result, the closer-knit communities, low living costs, clean air, lack of traffic, and proximity to the Philippines’ countless natural wonders may be highly-appealing, particularly for urban Filipinos concerned for their physical, mental, and financial well-being. It’s no wonder that more and more Filipinos are leaving the hustle and bustle of major metropolitan areas in favor of a slower, healthier way of living.

Developing the countryside for all Filipinos

Life in the Philippine countryside is far from perfect. However, for a growing number of urban Filipinos, it offers several advantages that make it easier for them to achieve the kind of life they want. Also, it’s worth considering that a wider return to the countryside may also benefit urban Filipinos by decongesting cities and making them more livable.

Aboitiz InfraCapital, along with its partners and local stakeholders, can play a crucial role in transforming the Philippine countryside through economic estate and infrastructure development. Through these efforts, opportunities for economic growth and development in both major urban centers and smaller regional communities can be created. In this way, developing the countryside can be seen as an important way of making the entire country livable for all Filipinos, regardless of their origins or ambitions.

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