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MANILA – The number of Filipino women leaving for work abroad every year has now breached the 100,000 mark, an indication that the Philippines continues to send more women workers to work overseas, said former labor undersecretary Susan Ople, head of The Blas F. Ople Policy Center.
In her position paper submitted to Senate foreign relations committee deliberating the International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 189 concerning decent work for domestic helpers for Senate concurrence, Ople said “there is no let-up in the number of Filipino women leaving to work abroad as domestic helpers."
“Based on the records of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, the deployment of Filipino domestic workers abroad is increasing year-to-year. For the first time, newly hired household service workers breached the 100,000-mark (136,000 deployed in 2011). Around 70 percent of these HSWs went to the Middle East where conditions are harsh especially for non-skilled women workers,” she explained.
With this argument, Ople said the Policy Center strongly supports the ratification of the Convention.
If the Senate concurs, the Convention will strengthen the hands of the government in negotiating for better terms and condition in behalf of millions of overseas Filipino workers who end up in the Middle East.
“ILO Convention 189 recognizes household work as an occupation, and urges member-states to bestow to domestic workers the same rights and privileges enjoyed by other workers. As more countries ratify this Convention, the better chances that the Philippines shall have in pursuing bilateral labor agreements to protect our overseas domestic workers,” Ople explained.
The ILO Convention 189 was adopted last year with 396 member-states voting in favor, 156 against, and 62 abstentions. The first country to ratify the Convention was Uruguay. If the Philippines is able to ratify the ILO Convention 189 next month, it could be the second country in the world and the first country in Asia to do so.
Among the provision of the Convention is Article 9, Section C where it states: “Each Member shall take measures to ensure that domestic workers are entitled to keep in possession their travel and identity documents." Ople said this provision is important because most foreign employers confiscate the passports of their domestic workers to prevent them from leaving or running away despite oppressive living and work conditions.
The Ople Center also welcomed Article 6 of ILO Convention 189 that directs each Member to ensure that domestic workers like all workers enjoy fair terms of employment as well as decent work conditions, and if they reside in the household, decent living conditions that respect their privacy.
The Convention also stipulates that ILO member states should make sure that domestic workers are paid directly in cash at least once a month. This Article is important because thousands of Filipino domestic helpers particularly in Syria, Lebanon, Kuwait, and other parts of Middle East are deprived of pay or are not paid on time.
“One reason why many of our domestic workers in Syria refuse to leave is because they are unwilling to forego pending claims for delayed salaries. Once they come home, such claims would no longer viable,” the Ople Center said.
As of today, there are an estimated 1.9 million domestic workers in the Philippines and 1.5 million Filipino domestic workers outside the country.