International labour migration remains a staple feature of the global economy. Especially since the early 1970s, many governments throughout south and southeast Asia have embarked upon overseas employment programmes in an effort to facilitate economic growth and development. In response, a sizeable body of work has emerged to ascertain the effectiveness of overseas employment. Whereas considerable work has examined the volume and destinations of international labour migration, decidedly fewer studies have analysed the origins of migrant workers from labour-sending states. As such, policy formulation is potentially jeopardised, as governments are ill-prepared to specify with any certainty whether migration ameliorates or exacerbates regional inequalities. Using special data-sets provided for the author, this paper examines the regional origins and attributes of overseas contract workers from the Philippines. In the first analysis, the relative contribution of overseas employment is examined. In the second analysis, migrant labour-force participation rates –disaggregated by age, educational attainment and geographic region – are calculated. Findings from the first analysis suggest that regions adjacent to, and including, the National Capital Region are over-represented in their overall contribution to international labour migration. Findings from the second analysis suggest that the labour-absorptive capacity of the Philippines is less for those with some college education, and that the greatest impact of labour export is felt in the areas adjacent to the National Capital Region. Moreover, patterns of migrant origins are contingent upon structural, institutional and social factors. Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.