Philippine Overseas Employment Administration head Hans Leo Cacdac told the Inquirer in an interview that Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz has given him “specific marching orders to look at a five-year phaseout program” in the foreign deployment of household service workers, or HSWs.
Specifically, Cacdac said, Baldoz asked him to look at a “broader program that will help prospective OFWs decide about other job options aside from being HSWs.”
He clarified, however, that zero deployment was out of the question “because there are certain types of domestic work, like in some parts of Europe, that are high-paying and protective.”
He emphasized there was “nothing shameful about being a maid or a domestic helper.” However, Cacdac added, many of the prospective household workers were professionals, such as teachers and nurses who could find “better, higher-paying and less vulnerable jobs here and abroad.”
The HSW phaseout program is “just in the conceptual framework and development stage, Cacdac said, noting that he convened the committee to draw the plan up only two weeks ago.
“Hopefully, before the end of the year, we’d be able to finalize the plan. It’s better to have a plan than not having one,” Cacdac said.
According to him, the committee “still needs to look at the hard data.” “Who are the people who opt for domestic work abroad? What’s their educational profile? What are their ages, their gender? Where do they come from? What region or which part of the country?”
“If there are available options here, then we can reach out to other government agencies involved in employment facilitation,” Cacdac said. “The first step is identifying the prospective OFWs’ skills, then develop further their skills and then move on to the industries through those government agencies.”
During the past six years, the Philippines deployed a total of 499,495 newly hired HSWs worldwide, according to POEA records. From 91,412 HSWs in 2006, an additional 47,877 were deployed in 2007, followed by 50,081 in 2008, 71,557 in 2009, 96,583 in 2010 and 142,485 last year.
During the first half of 2012, a total of 72,355 OFWs were employed as HSWs. They represented 33.1 percent of the 218,308 newly hired land-based OFWs deployed in the same period.
The figures do not include undocumented OFWs now working as domestic helpers in many countries such as like Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Italy.
From 2006 to 2011, the top 10 destinations for newly hired HSWs were Hong Kong, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Italy, Bahrain, Malaysia, and Oman.
During the same period, Italy registered the biggest average annual increase in HSW hiring with 340 percent, followed by Malaysia with 105.9 percent; Singapore, 71 percent; Bahrain, 52.5 percent; Qatar, 43.4 percent; United Arab Emirates, 42.2 percent; Kuwait, 30.3 percent; Saudi Arabia, 26.3 percent; Oman, 15.7 percent; and Hong Kong, 9.3 percent.
Cacdac said the POEA was analyzing statistical data on overseas Filipino domestic helpers in relation to other OFWs.
“They do not represent a majority, but their numbers are increasing. I would say one-third of the newly hired. And for the first time, in 2011 we hit the 100,000 mark. Usually, they averaged 60,000 to 70,000 a year. But last year, HSWs reached more than 142,000,” he said.
A check with the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration showed that as of July 31, 2012, a total of 1,251,021 OWWA members were employed as HSWs. The OWWA has over 5.52 million members.
The top 30 countries hosting documented HSWs were: Hong Kong, 316,412; Kuwait, 210,763; Saudi Arabia, 140,497; United Arab Emirates, 128,101; Singapore, 94,104; Qatar, 78,806; Italy, 78,352; Lebanon, 42,566; Malaysia, 29,019; Bahrain, 21,254; Cyprus, 20,127; Oman, 19,601; Jordan, 18,905; Spain, 13,597; Brunei, 9,740; Macau, 6,085; United Kingdom, 2,716; Syria, 2,637; Taiwan, 2,423; Greece, 1,971; Japan, 1,757; Pakistan, 1,051; South Korea, 774; United States, 768; Cayman Islands, 664; China, 611; Egypt, 593; Palau, 494; Saipan, 454; and Switzerland, 395.
According to Cacdac, “Something must be done by the government to make sure that everybody knows the realities of working abroad, especially those in a vulnerable occupation like HSWs. And that includes setting high standards for the hiring and deployment of HSWs, as well as the protection of their rights.”
Asked about the country’s image as a maid-exporting nation, Cacdac said: “That is a very sensitive issue. We are more concerned about ensuring that all departing OFWs will have legitimate, decent and dignified work abroad—our mandate—plus providing them adequate protection of their rights.”
Last year, some labor leaders cited Cacdac for playing a “key leadership role” in developing the International Labor Organization’s Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers, the first global labor standards for the estimated 50 to 100 million domestic workers worldwide.
Members of the so-called Gulf Cooperation Council—Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, and the UAE —which also host OFWs, had earlier opposed the legally binding agreement but later backed its approval.
Early this month, the Philippines became the second country (after Uruguay) to ratify the ILO convention, which aims to treat domestic workers with respect and dignity and promote decent and productive work for HSWs.