ILO makes maids part of formal work force

By Estrella Torres, BusinessMirror

Posted at Aug 07 2012 07:31 AM | Updated as of Aug 07 2012 07:03 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The Senate ratified on Monday the International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 189 that protects the rights and welfare of domestic workers here and overseas and make them part of the formal work force.

The ILO Convention on the Protection of Domestic Workers aims to lift the condition of Filipino domestic workers, more than 2.5 million of them deployed across the country and overseas, mostly in Middle East countries where they are prone to suffer physical, verbal and sexual abuses.

Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz welcomed the Senate ratification of the ILO Convention 189, as it benefits an estimated 1.93 million to 2.5 million Filipino domestic workers who will now be part of the formal sector with socioeconomic benefits.

She said the Senate ratification was “historic” as it placed the Philippines at the forefront of global efforts to promote decent and productive work for household service workers.

The ILO Convention requires ratification by at least two member-states before it enters into force. Uruguay was the first to ratify the treaty in June, followed this time by the Philippines.

“So this puts the Philippines in a unique position with regards the entry into force of ILO Convention 189,” said Baldoz, who witnessed the Senate ratification on Monday. “We thank all our senators for giving our household service workers the dignity they deserve,” she added.

The ILO Convention 189 sets the new international standards for the protection of household helpers. Among its landmark component is its changing the definition of domestic work as “work performed in or for a household or households, covers all domestic workers and provides special measures to protect those workers, who, because of their young age or nationality or live-in status, may be exposed to additional risks relative to their peers.”

The ILO treaty also allows household service workers “reasonable work hours, weekly rest of at least 24 consecutive hours, clear information on terms and conditions of employment, as well as respect for fundamental principles, including freedom of association, and the right to collective bargaining.”

The Philippines is the world’s third- largest sending country of migrant workers—next to China and India—with 10 percent or 9 million of its total population working overseas.

Most of the Filipino migrant workers are household service workers deployed in Asia’s leading economies such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, as well as Arab and Muslim states such as Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Kuwait, Lebanon and Jordan. Despite a deployment ban since early 2011, thousands of Filipino domestic workers are being trafficked into war-stricken Syria, with the numbers reaching more than 10,000 this year, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs.