Working in Manila



In the past decade, Manila has gradually emerged to become a global economic player, opening its gates to foreign investors and expats alike who found promise in the city’s significant developments.                      

Most expatriates who came to the Philippines for work purposes normally land a job in Manila, the capital and the nation’s centre for commerce, politics and economics. Despite the alarming nationwide unemployment rate of 5.8%, employment in the National Capital Region, where Manila is located, rose to 93.1% in 2016. Though there is a rise on the number of employment opportunities, securing a job in this city is not as easy as one may think. Aside from the fact that the local government prioritises Filipino applicants, the company who wishes to employ a foreign national should also prove that the local workforce is not enough to fill the vacancy. 

Manila’s Leading Industries 

The Philippines labour force grew by 3.1% or 1.138 million, making the employed 38.196 million in number. A significant increase of 6.6% was experienced by the service sector, hiring about 1.123 million employees. The industry sector follows second with an increase of 1.4%, bringing in 72,000 employees to the labour force. 

Manila is considered a cosmopolitan city, and in recent years has attracted a large number of BPO (business process outsourcing) companies. With this, Manila is fast becoming an in-demand contact centre hub of Asia. The BPO sector posted a total of 18.7% revenue growth just in 2014, and it is still expected to grow since Chinatown is currently being transformed into a major call centre hub. There are now a total of 30 BPO buildings/offices in Manila whereas a majority are located along Binondo and Escolta Street. 

This industry has also brought expats and jobs to the country. Aside from customer service, travel services, technical support, education, and financial services, a wider array of BPO companies have established their offices in Manila. Legal and medical transcriptions, finance, logistics, accounting, and even software development and animation, are all services that are also offered by BPOs in Manila. Expats who don’t consider working in this industry can also find employment in the fields of: 

  • Education
  • Banking and Finance
  • Commerce
  • Tourism
  • Transportation
  • Real Estate
  • Retail and Fashion/Garments
  • Electronics
  • Food and Beverage Production
  • Non-government Organisations or Humanitarian Work 

Average Salary and Work Hours 

Generally speaking, the minimum wage in the Philippines is under the regulation of the Department of Labour and Employment (DOLE) and is at Php 8,000 or USD 160 per month as of 2010. Expats bound to work in Manila should know that the range of their salary hugely depends on their job and qualifications. For example, the average salary for those who work in the corporate world is around USD 400-600 per month while those that are categorised as ‘unskilled workers’ receive a minimum wage of USD 200-300 per month. However, employers will usually benchmark the premiums and salary of their expat employees based on their previous salary from their home country.

According to the Philippine Labour Law, all employees should only work for a maximum of eight hours a day or 40 hours per week. Office hours in Manila usually start at 8 AM and end at 5 PM from Mondays to Fridays. However, due to the proliferation of BPOs and call centres in the city, there are offices that are open if not 24 hours, usually beyond the normal schedule. 

Manila’s Business Culture 

Filipinos have a bad habit of adhering to ‘Filipino time', which means being 30 minutes to an hour late. However, due to recent changes influenced by the Western-cultured BPO's, the Filipino punctuality is showing signs of improvement. 

Your Filipino colleagues appreciate congenial people, so make sure to establish a friendly relationship with co-workers. To them, a successful business or professional relationship is mostly based on what they call 'pakikisama' or ‘camaraderie’ which means there is significant importance in human interaction, personal contact, and establishing trust. 

Do dress conservatively in the workplace. Despite the Manila’s seemingly Westernised culture, many of your Filipino colleagues may still be offended by clothing that is too revealing or unconventional. Many expats see Manila as their doorway to a tropical paradise. But modern Manila has so much more to offer - new opportunities, growth, and success.


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Working in the Philippines

Expat Services in Manila