Position Paper of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center and Training Institute on ILO Convention 189 Concerning Decent Work for Domestic Workers
(Submitted to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, June 14, 2012)
The Blas F. Ople Policy Center and Training Institute (Ople Center) commends the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on its decision to prioritize ILO Convention 189.
As a policy center that specializes in the handling of cases involving OFWs including domestic workers overseas, we strongly support the ratification of this Convention in view of the following:
- There is no let-up in the number of Filipino women leaving to work abroad as domestic workers. 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% of these HSWs went to the Middle East where conditions are harsh especially for non-skilled women workers.
- An ILO study on domestic workers around the world revealed that out of 65 countries surveyed, only 19 had legislation meant to protect and/or recognize the rights of domestic workers. As more countries ratify ILO Convention 189, bilateral labor agreements can follow and every ratifying member-state would have to come up with appropriate legislation and/or regulation to protect domestic workers.
- Domestic workers are prone to discrimination in three ways: as women, as domestic workers, and as migrant workers. Of great concern is the number of young, unemployed Filipinos who may look to the life of an overseas domestic worker as a springboard to employment. Per 2010 labor data, young workers aged 15-24 comprise the biggest number of unemployed Filipinos, representing 51% or 1.460 million.)
- The Ople Center has seen and heard too many horror stories involving Filipino domestic workers here and abroad involving maltreatment, multiple rapes, physical and verbal abuse, non-payment of salaries, delayed payment of salaries, underpayment of salaries, starvation, inhumane living and sleeping conditions, inhumane hours of work, human trafficking done by foreign agents/brokers/recruiters and the employers themselves.
- ILO Convention 189 is significant because it raises the stature of household workers from an invisible, unprotected class of individuals mostly women, to an occupational category as domestic workers entitled to a formal work contract, a set number of hours of work a day, specific rest days and annual vacations, inclusion in social protection programs, among others.
- One of the provisions in this Convention is the stipulation that the passports and other vital documents of domestic workers overseas must remain in their possession. This is important given the number of Filipino domestic workers who are forced to surrender their passports to their employers as a guarantee that they would not run away or disobey instructions.
- The ratification of ILO Convention 189 will make it easier for the Philippine government to reach out to and initiate bilateral labor agreements with ILO member-states including those that supported its adoption in June 2011, namely – Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Lebanon, Jordan, UAE, and other countries in the Middle East.
- Once the ILO Convention comes into force, the ILO as an organization would have the moral suasion to monitor compliance of member-states that ratified it, while keeping track of those member-states that have refused to sign/adopt/concur with said Convention.
- ILO Convention 189, once ratified by the Philippine Senate, will ably complement our own national legislation, the long-awaited Kasambahay Law that would protect the rights of domestic workers to decent work.
- We support ILO Convention 189 because it opens the doors to global and national monitoring of recruitment agencies with an eye towards regulation and promotion of ethical standards in the recruitment, hiring, and deployment of domestic workers.
The Philippine government’s aspiration for inclusive growth arising from a more stable economic environment will take many leaps forward once our domestic workers our elevated into the formal sector of employment – less skilled, yes, but nonetheless just with labor rights and social benefits at par with others.