Philippines cited for domestic worker protection

Published by reposted only Date posted on January 9, 2013

THE PHILIPPINES is one of the few countries that has committed to ensure labor protection for domestic workers according to international standard, said the International Labor Organization (ILO) in a report.

“Within just over a year after its adoption, three countries — Uruguay, the Philippines and Mauritius — have ratified the Convention [Domestic Workers Convention 189 in 2011], which will enter into force in September 2013,” read the report released yesterday.

The study on the global and regional statistics on domestic workers is the first research conducted by the ILO directed to a specific sector. Studies conducted by lawyers, statisticians, and working conditions specialists have been collated to complete the document.

The report said that only 10% of at least 52 million domestic workers — mostly females — are protected by labor laws specific to the sector, while a quarter are not protected at all in national legislations.

“It was the Philippine government that chaired the ILO Committee that passed the ILO Convention 189 on Domestic Work. We are advanced compared with other labor-sending countries in our reforms for HSW [household service workers] protection,” Labor Secretary Rosalinda D. Baldoz said in a text message yesterday.

“We take pride to be recognized in the international labor community as the leader in protection of rights and welfare of domestic or household service workers…,” she added.

The Labor department has been negotiating with governments abroad to commit to a standardized employment contract for Filipino migrant domestic workers.

In the said contract, an employer will be required to provide a minimum monthly pay of $400, as well as a day off at least once a week, and a paid vacation leave.

The ILO report cited that in the year 2010 alone, more than 96,500 Filipino domestic workers went overseas, most of whom preferred to work in Hong Kong, China and the Gulf region, including Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

“The outflow of domestic workers from the Philippines has increased, from approximately 63,000 in 1995, and women comprise the overwhelming majority of Filipino migrant domestic workers,” the report said.

According to the report, the Philippines is also one of the top three countries that sends female migrant workers. The other two are Sri Lanka and Indonesia.

“The share of women among outward migrant workers from the region has been rising over time, and is estimated to be between 60% and 80% in all three countries,” it said.

Meanwhile, the Philippines — along with Sri Lanka, Indonesia and India — also make up most of migrant domestic workers in the Middle East.

“The Philippines tend to have relatively higher levels of education and a good command of English, which puts them in high demand, especially by elite families in the United Arab Emirates,” it said.

LOCAL WORKERS

The Philippines was also cited along with Indonesia as having a significant number of domestic workers who had sought local employment.

According to the 2010 Labor Force Survey of the National Statistics Office, there are 1.9 million Filipinos who worked for private households, up from 1.2 million in 2001.

“Paid domestic work is predominantly carried out by women, accounting for almost 12% of female total employment in the same year,” it said.

The report said that in the Philippines, the demographic profiles between the locally employed domestic workers and those abroad “differ significantly.”

Local domestic workers are younger, poorer, and have attained lower levels of education than their counterparts abroad.

“Moreover, Filipino migrant domestic workers are typically better educated, have a better knowledge of English and enjoy greater support from the sending country than migrant domestic workers from other sending countries and therefore command somewhat higher wages,” the report said.

KASAMBAHAY BILL

The Philippines was also cited for the passage by Congress of a measure ensuring domestic worker rights, or the so-called Kasambahay Bill, last November. The bill is awaiting the signature of President Benigno S. C. Aquino III.

Sought for comment, Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail F. Valte yesterday said the Palace is awaiting transmission of the bill by Congress.

“If adopted, the new legislation would significantly extend the protection of domestic workers in the country,” the ILO report said.

The ILO, meanwhile, reported that general labor laws in the Philippines also cover domestic workers, contrary to majority of developing countries in Asia.

“In the developing and emerging countries of Asia, 61% of domestic workers remain outside the scope of labor legislation, while the remainder are covered by one or other type of legal protection,” stated the report.

“Likewise, no deductions from the minimum wage are permitted in the Philippines, Algeria, Burkina Faso and Zimbabwe, and across most of Latin America,” read the report.

DISMAL WORLDWIDE SITUATION

On a global scale, domestic workers worldwide account for 7.5% of the wage employment of women in the world, with higher figures in the Asia and the Pacific Region, Latin America, and the Caribbean, the report said.

More than 19 million of the total 52 million became domestic workers between mid-1990s and 2010, according to the report.

“Domestic workers are frequently expected to work longer hours than other workers and in many countries do not have the same rights to weekly rest that are enjoyed by other workers.

“Combined with the lack of rights, the extreme dependency on an employer and the isolated and unprotected nature of domestic work can render them vulnerable to exploitation and abuse,” said ILO Deputy Director-General Sandra Polaski in a statement yesterday.

The working hours, for instance, a domestic worker has to endure is “among the longest and most unpredictable for all groups of workers,” stated the report.

In the Philippines, the average time a domestic worker works in a week is 52 hours, four hours more than the 48-hour threshold, according to the ILO. — Richard Jacob N. Dy with an input from Noemi M. Gonzales, Businessworld

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