Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
Angel Borja Jr, labour attache at the Philippines embassy, wants to promote his country’s higher-skilled workers. Sammy Dallal / The National
Angel Borja Jr, labour attache at the Philippines embassy, wants to promote his country’s higher-skilled workers. Sammy Dallal / The National

Philippines seeks to reduce domestic workers in UAE

The country's new labour attache says Manila hopes to trim household workers, and export more skilled labour to UAE.

ABU DHABI // The Philippines’ new labour attache in Abu Dhabi hopes to reduce the number of his countrywomen coming to the UAE to work as housemaids by 2016, and focus more on sending skilled workers and professionals.

“There has been a tendency to focus heavily on the plight of household service workers as they are the most vulnerable sector,” said Angel Borja Jr, who took up the position this month.

“We would now like to promote our higher-skilled workers in the oil and gas, information technology and industrial sectors.”
One of the new nuclear power plants in Al Gharbia, for example, will employ 15,000.

“I’ve already processed close to 1,000 contracts but I need to visit the worksite,” he said. “This is an area that falls under our jobs promotion role.”

At a labour-mobility conference in Abu Dhabi, Rosalinda Baldoz, the Philippines labour secretary, said her country was focusing on the higher end of the job market.

In August last year, she set 2016 as a target of a five-year programme against abusive employers of domestic workers.

“Her standing instructions to labour attaches in countries with a high deployment rate of household service workers (HSWs) is to try to reduce it,” Mr Borja said.

“Her vision is by 2016 we would no longer count HSWs among the biggest category of workers going out of our country. The rate of the HSW has outpaced any other skilled category. We should do something drastic to prevent this huge outflow.

“Of course, we cannot prevent them from leaving the country,” he said. “It would be a constitutional violation of their right to travel.”

Maids, nannies, family drivers, cooks and gardeners are roles in the category of household service workers. Most are women.

“If not for the HSWs, we would be better at serving other overseas Filipino workers here in a more positive way by doing more developmental activities,” Mr Borja said

“We are weighed down with the problems of our HSWs. They work under the same roof, share the same toilet and kitchen as their employers and get harassed and suffer the indignities of a domestic worker.”

Delmer Cruz, the labour attache in Dubai, said there were efforts to reduce the number of domestic workers sent to Dubai and the Northern Emirates. His office has found alternative sources of employment for women in the hospitality and wellness sector.

“We should veer from unskilled and vulnerable job categories,” he said. “The economy in Dubai is picking up and these women can work in hotels and spas where they enjoy basic pay and tips, and their own accommodation instead of a household setting.”

Contract substitution victimises the majority of household workers. This happens when a second, inferior, labour contract to the signed original is presented to a worker, either before leaving her home country or after arriving in the UAE.

In December 2006, a reform package from the Philippine overseas employment administration required that household staff be paid a minimum monthly wage of US$400 (Dh1,469), be at least 23 years old and not be required to pay placement fees.

“The $400 minimum wage is a very contentious issue in Abu Dhabi,” Mr Borja said. “What we are trying to enforce here is a guiding rate.

“The $200 salary rate has been in effect in the last 20 to 30 years and has already overtaken events in the Philippines: the high inflation rate, the dramatic improvement in the exchange rate of the US dollar and the Philippine peso and the prevailing minimum wage in the country.”

To circumvent the minimum wage, employers resort to “paper compliance”, agreeing to the terms in a contract, but paying the worker a reduced wage.

“But it usually involves a tacit agreement between the agency and the worker,” Mr Borja said. “Out of desperation, she accepts the job.”

Domestic workers, however, should not be treated as a liability by the Philippine government despite the huge amounts of money spent to send them home, he said.

“Their situation here is wretched,” he said. “But I’m happy to report that from a high of 200 in February, we now have 55 workers under our care.”

The women are being fed and counselled by labour and welfare officials at the Filipino workers resource centre at the embassy in Abu Dhabi. All had left their jobs after complaining of a lack of food and sleep, overwork, non-payment and other mistreatment.

There are 680,000 Filipinos in the UAE. Of those, 10 per cent are household workers.


Back to the top

More articles

Editor's Picks

On our sixth birthday, today’s news told visually

Today in print, we are doing something different: we use only photos, graphics, illustrations and headlines to capture the news in a one-off collector’s edition.

 Rolling out the structure for the set. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National

Star Wars: Episode VII evidence in Abu Dhabi desert

After more than a week of speculation, The National has what are believed to be the first photos of a Star Wars shoot in the Abu Dhabi desert.

 INVERNESS, SCOTLAND - APRIL 16:  A general view of Urquhart Castle, Drumnadrochit on April 16, 2014 in Scotland. A referendum on whether Scotland should be an independent country will take place on September 18, 2014.  (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Map of seperatist movements around the world

The conflict in Ukraine is a classic example of competing aspirations and identities – here’s a look at seperatist movements around the world.

 Hassan Abdullah, who goes by the name Abu Mahmoud, an Emirati fisherman, poses for a portrait at the Al Rughayalat Port. Abu Mahmoud was born and raised in Fujairah city and has been working as a fisherman since 1968. “I’m a shark man”, he says, “I was born in the sea.” Silvia Razgova / The National

In pictures: Fishing communities in the Northern Emirates

Fishermen in Fujairah and Umm Al Qaiwain worry that new regulations to protect fish stocks are harming their trade. We look at both communities through the lens of our photographers.

 The cast of Fast & Furious 7, including Michelle Rodriguez and Vin Diesel, centre, on set at Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

Fast & Furious 7 filming in full swing at Emirates Palace

Filming for Fast & Furious 7 has started and we have the first photos of the cast and crew on set at Emirates Palace hotel this morning. Visitors staying at Emirates Palace say they have been kept away from certain areas in the grounds.

 Omar Al Miskini was honoured as Outstanding Male Driver with Special Needs at last month’s Gulf Traffic Week.

In pictures: Special needs driver an exemplary example in the UAE

Photos of Omar Al Miskini, 40, who was named exemplary male driver with special needs by Abu Dhabi Police during the Gulf Traffic Week


To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National