x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Filipino workers in demand despite costs

The demand for Filipinos migrant workers remains high despite a law updated last year requiring recruiters to pay for the workers' insurance abroad.

ABU DHABI // Filipino migrant workers remain in high demand despite new regulations in Manila requiring recruiters to pay their insurance costs abroad.

"So far, it hasn't affected the deployment of workers to the UAE," said Elizabeth Estrada, the Philippines' assistant labour attache in Abu Dhabi.

"In fact, there has been huge demand for nurses, dental assistants and other medical professionals here in Abu Dhabi."

Recruitment agencies in the Philippines must now provide workers with an insurance policy costing $72 (Dh264), or $144 for a two-year contract, under amendments made by the Manila government in November.

The Filipino Migrant Workers Act applies to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who are hired by agencies, and are either leaving the Philippines for the first time or have new contracts.

Some companies in Abu Dhabi have questioned why the new requirements were introduced, as they already provided insurance coverage to their employees.

"A company once requested an exemption," said Ms Estrada. "But when we reviewed the insurance coverage, it did not cover some of the benefits provided by the Philippines' mandatory insurance requirement."

The amendment to the Filipino Migrant Workers Act forbids agencies from passing the costs on to workers.

Eduardo Mahiya, the president of the Overseas Placement Association, which represents 600 licensed recruitment agencies, said the majority of the agencies paid for the premium.

"There are employers who shoulder the cost of the premium, but this seldom happens."

In recent months, it has been used to cover costs for workers fleeing Libya. The insurance policy covers natural and accidental death, permanent disability, repatriation costs and medical repatriation, and other benefits.

Ms Estrada said recruiters would eventually appreciate the benefits of the insurance requirement. "It's just a matter of explaining to both employers and recruiters," she said.

rruiz@thenational.ae