x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Maids taught how to keep money tidy

The financial literacy workshops are being run by a group that trains Filipinos in the emirates how to budget and save.

ABU DHABI // Filipino maids who fled their employers' abuse are to get lessons in managing their money.

The women have spent months at a shelter in the capital run by the Philippine government and are waiting to be sent home.

The financial literacy workshops are being run by a group that trains Filipinos in the emirates how to budget and save.

"Despite everything you've been through, you need to continue to dream of a better life," Bal Junio, a finance and administration manager in Abu Dhabi, told the 60 women, mostly housemaids.

The workshops, held at the Philippine embassy, discussed issues affecting migrants and their families plus the basic concepts of saving, investing and borrowing, and the various means of investing.

Mr Junio, 42, president of Bayanihan UAE, the umbrella organisation of 42 Filipino associations in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, said it was their sixth session on financial literacy this year.

He was a participant in a financial literacy "training of trainers" held in Dubai by the Ministry of Labour in January. It was not only for Filipinos but also migrants from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

"You have to save at least 10 per cent of your salary," he said. "It's important a family member in the Philippines also earns an income to contribute to your savings."

Mr Junio taught the women how to save and budget their money.

The ideal approach is "save before you spend, recognise your needs versus your wants, write your budget and stick to your financial plan".

"These women have to realise the value of money," said James Mendiola, the welfare officer at the embassy, who led a workshop on the different sources of loans.

"If they are armed with knowledge on how to properly handle their finances, they can slowly pick up the pieces of their lives when they return to the Philippines."

The women, who are sheltered at the Filipino Workers Resources Centre at the embassy, fled their employers' homes after complaining of unpaid salaries, lack of food and sleep and long working hours.

At one workshop, Julie, 46, said she was looking forward to going home next month after receiving her back wages from her employer.

She had not been paid for two-and-a-half months.

"Lack of planning, overspending and the over-dependence of family on remittances are some reasons why Filipinos abroad end up not fulfilling their goals," she said.

Most household workers in the UAE earn just US$200 (Dh735) per month - half of the US$400 minimum wage set by the Philippine government in December 2006.

In an interview last May, Mr Junio said that one of the barriers to reintegration and savings was the over-dependence on being sent money by migrants' families.

"It is our nature to make sacrifices for family," he said.

"We need to know how and when to say no to some of their demands."

Atikha, a non-governmental organisation that provides economic and social services to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and their families, provided the training module for the financial literacy programme in the UAE.

Research carried out by the group in 2001 found that most OFWs have no significant savings, despite years of working abroad, and many are caught in a debt trap.

"The ultimate goal is for us to reach out to everyone in the community," Mr Mendiola said. "We need to do something about it."

rruiz@thenational.ae