If Taiwan is a ‘receiver’ of domestic workers and caregivers, Philippines is instead widely known for being the ‘sender’ of many women workers in the cleaning, care and health sectors around the world. Estimates indicate that there are 2.4 million Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), more than half of which are women. This number rises to more than 10.2 million if we include the entire diaspora of Filipino origin – citizens who have only recently achieved voting rights in the country.

Labor migrations have been promoted by Filipino governments since the times of Martial Law with the creation of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) in 1982. Yet ‘state-sponsored’ migration as well as more general measures of economic liberalization, favoring foreign investments and international indebtedness, have continued after the end of Marcos’ regime in 1986. Today, poverty still affects more than 20% of population, with a disproportionate impact on women and children.

As far as local workers as concerned, domestic workers in the country are estimated to be 1.2 million people, with a large share (39%) of young women under 24 years of age. Since 2013, these workers are protected by the new Philippine Domestic Workers’ Act (Batas Kasambahay) promulgated soon after the ratification of the C189 in 2012. The government was one of the first (and the only one so far in the Asian context) to ratify the ILO convention. The Department of Labour (DOLE) and PSOE together have been very supportive of C189 ratification, which was seen not only as a tool to improve the conditions of workers in the country, but also to protect the interests of Filipino domestic workers who are employed abroad. Throughout the process of promulgation of C189 and subsequent national ratification, the collaboration between the Filipino government and ILO has been significant.

In the country, the most prominent advocates of workers’ rights are trade unions, religious organizations, national and international NGOs. The Filipino trade union movement is one of the oldest in the region, it is highly politicized yet has historically suffered from fragmentation, internal weaknesses and institutional repression. Only recently domestic workers have started forming their own labor organizations (such as UNITED in 2012) as an effect of the C189 ratification process.

Country-expert:  Verna Dinah Q. Viajar

Local workshop: 11 January 2018