Philippines plan to phase out domestic workers (DH) overseas

Filipino domestic workers seeking refuge from abusive employers sit in the basement of their embassy's shelter in Amman, Jordan on October 6, 2008. Photo: Nader Daoud/AP

The Philippines government is developing a plan to stop sending domestic workers overseas in five years, according to a Manila newspaper.

The phase-out program, which officials hope to finalize at the end of this year, aims to provide alternative jobs for household service workers (HSWs), either in their home country or abroad.

Details on about 180 countries which would no longer be sent domestic workers from the Philippines were not available. But critics said reducing the number of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) would hurt families who rely heavily on remittances.

Zero deployment of HSWs was "out of the question", Hans Cacdac, the head of the Philippine overseas employment administration (POEA), told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in Manila at the weekend.

He said there were certain types of domestic work, particularly in some parts of Europe, which were "high-paying and protective", and may be allowed to continue.

If there are work options available to HSWs in their home country, then the POEA could reach out to government agencies to facilitate their employment, Mr. Cacdac said.

"The first step is to identify prospective OFWs' skills, further develop these skills, and then move on to the industries through those government agencies," Mr. Cacdac told the Inquirer.

Maids, nannies, gardeners, private tutors and family drivers are among the jobs that fall under the category of household service workers. Most of them are women.

The Philippines sent about 499,495 Filipinos to work as HSWs worldwide from 2006 to 2011. However, this figure does not include undocumented workers.

The UAE, Kuwait and Qatar together accounted for almost half (46 per cent) of the 96,583 Filipinos who went to work overseas as domestic staff in 2010.

Hong Kong was the top destination, with 28,602, followed by Kuwait with 21,554, and the UAE was third with 13,184. Saudi Arabia was fourth at 11,582, and Qatar was fifth with 9,937.

Abused Filipina Domestic Helper. Photo: NADER DAOUDASSOCIATED PRES

The phase-out program, which is still in the "conceptual framework and development stage", will involve a review of the HSW data: their education and job profile, age, gender and region of origin in the Philippines.

Mr. Cacdac said the Philippine labor secretary Rosalinda Baldoz told him that she wanted the POEA, which monitors overseas employment, to develop a broader program to help provide job options other than domestic work.

Mr. Cacdac, who assumed his post in January, also told the newspaper that there was "nothing shameful about being a maid or a domestic worker". Many are nurses and teachers who would be able to find alternative jobs in the Philippines or abroad, jobs that would pay them well and make them less vulnerable to underpayment and mistreatment.

The POEA is analyzing its statistical data on the profile of overseas foreign workers who are employed as domestic workers. Mr. Cacdac said the sector did not represent a majority, but that their numbers were increasing: in 2011, it reached more than 142,000, compared to an average of 60,000 to 70,000 a year in previous years.

"The government should take a reality check," said Lito Soriano, the chief executive of LBS Recruitment Solutions in Manila.

"There is a decline in the deployment of skilled and professional male workers abroad because many lack work experience. Female college graduates, however, have job recourse. There are unemployed female accountants, nurses and teachers who end up working as domestic workers abroad to support their families."

Mr. Soriano, who is also adviser to the Coalition of Licensed Agencies for Domestic Services, said families rely heavily on remittances from family members overseas. The phase-out program, which seeks to reduce the number of Filipinos seeking domestic work, will lead to a sharp decline in OFW remittances to the Philippines, he said.

"It will not work," he said. "Filipinos will still leave the country and will be among those who are undocumented or did not go through the POEA."

The UAE chapter of Migrant, a migrant right's group, welcomed the government's move, which it said was "long overdue".

But domestic workers should be consulted on the phase-out program, said Karen Tanedo, the group's chairperson.

"The procedures should be laid down properly to the HSWs who will be directly affected," she said. "Plans must be disclosed to answer the real root cause of the program, which is poverty."

She said the government should have a "genuine" solution to provide jobs in the country, instead of sending workers to other countries.

"We haven't been informed about the phase-out program," said Nasser Munder, the labor attaché in Abu Dhabi. "But I believe it will apply to selected countries where abuse is rampant."

The National

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