By Samuel Medenilla
The number of Filipino household service workers (HSWs) abroad has now reached 2.2 million despite government attempts to restrict their deployment.
This comes after latest deployment figures from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) showed it has deployed an additional 275,073 newly hired HSWs in 2016–70 percent higher compared to 194,835 in 2015.
The 2016 HSW deployment data is now highest in the last 25 years.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) is currently the top destination for Filipino HSWs abroad with 107,298.
It was followed by Kuwait (57,726), Hong Kong (41,925), and Qatar (22,877).
Recruitment expert and LBS Recruitment Solution Inc. president Lito Soriano said demand for HSWs in KSA only started to rise after 2011.
To recall, the Saudi government temporarily stopped accepting Filipino HSWs that year over a disagreement with the Philippine government on some employment contract regulation.
In 2012, both parties were able to address this problem leading to better protection of Filipino HSWs in KSA.
From a deployment of just 2,098 in 2012, the number of new Filipino HSWs in KSA surged to 42,440 in 2013.
Soriano projected this trend would continue with the rising number of middle class in KSA.
“The middle class of Saudi Arabia ballooned during the last 10 years. Since the middle class is
now working or in business, they need people to attend to their families,” Soriano said.
Recruitment consultant Emmanuel Geslani however expressed concern over the rise in the deployment of HSWs and urged the government to investigate its causes.
He attributed the increase in HSWs deployment to the rising number foreign-owned illegal recruiters who are victimizing applicants in Mindanao.
“Foreign-owned recruitment agencies using Filipino dummies are easing out Filipino-owned agencies with their wide contacts in the Middle East and capturing most of the available applicants in Mindanao through the use of illegal agents,” Geslani said.
“Reliable source revealed that one agency is buying HSW applicants with passports at the rate of P20,000-P30,000 per head bagging many of the available mostly Muslim women,” he added.
In a separate interview, Bernard Olalia, labor undersecretary and POEA officer-in-charge, stressed the government has no policy to increase the number of Filipino HSWs abroad since they are considered more vulnerable compared to other professions.
“Our policy is to help them get better employment,” Olalia said.
In fact, the government even implemented a policy, Household Reform Package (HRP), which was supposed to discourage foreigners from hiring Filipinos HSWs by setting their minimum wage at $400.
But Soriano pointed out that because of the growing demand for migrant HSWs abroad, especially in the Middle East, the HRP even “incentivize” more Filipinos to become HSWs.