Pinoy maids overseas now protected by ILO convention

By Ted Torres, The Philippine Star

Posted at Sep 07 2012 11:51 AM | Updated as of Sep 07 2012 07:51 PM

MANILA, Philippines – Filipino overseas domestic helpers are now covered by the International Labor Organization (ILO)’s Convention on Domestic Workers.

But they will have to wait for another year before it takes effect.

Last Tuesday, the Philippines ratified the ILO Convention on Domestic Workers (ILO Convention 189), which grants domestic workers who care for families and households the same basic labor rights as other workers.

ILO director general Juan Somavia said that it sends a powerful signal to the millions of domestic workers.

“It will also send a signal to other member states and we will soon see more and more countries committing to protect the rights of domestic workers,” Somavia said in a statement.

The convention extends the ILO standards to a sector considered poorly regulated and remains largely part of the informal economy.

Among the rights that overseas domestic helpers will experience are: reasonable working hours, weekly rest of at least 24 consecutive hours, limit on in-kind payment, clear information on terms and conditions of employment, and respect for fundamental principles and rights at work, including freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining.

Recent ILO estimates based on national surveys and/or censuses in 117 countries place the global number of domestic workers at around 53 million.

But since this kind of work is often hidden and unregistered, experts believe that the total number could be as high as 100 million.

In developing countries, domestic workers make up at least four to 12 percent of wage employment. Around 83 percent of these workers are women or girls, and many are migrant workers.

Globally, domestic workers make up 3.6 percent of wage employment.

The new standard covers all domestic workers and provides for special measures to protect those workers who, because of their young age or nationality or live-in status, may be exposed to additional risks.

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), meanwhile, said that the number of domestic workers deployed in 2010 increased by 11 percent to 154,535.

In 2009, over 138,222 domestic workers were deployed, an increase of 12 percent from 123,332 in 2008.

There are approximately 140,000 Filipino domestic helpers in Hong Kong alone. Other destinations with significant numbers of Filipino domestic helpers are Singapore, Malaysia, Italy, the United Kingdom, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Lebanon. – With Pia Lee-Brago