By: Juliet Ugay
The Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics (HOME) held a forum at SCWO on Sunday the 19th of June 2016, in celebration of International Domestic Worker’s Day.
At the forum several important topics were discussed: the live-out option for Domestic Workers, the announcement of the Indonesian government to send zero Domestic Workers abroad in in 2017, and the zero placement fees for Myanmar Domestic Workers.
The forum also addressed the ratification of C189, the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention on Domestic Workers.
The session was attended by many Domestic Workers (DW), as well as HOME staff and press. Three Domestic Workers spoke at the forum, including yours truly, Juliet Ugay from the Philippines, Indonesian Novia Arluna and Myanmar national Moe Moe Than.
I, Juliet, spoke about the live out option for Domestic Workers, its advantages and disadvantages, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), the Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC) and the Overseas Worker’s Welfare Administration (OWWA).
Some of the advantages for domestic workers to live outside their employers house are: greater personal freedom and space, more access to help, less isolation from family and friends, fixed working hours, less control by the employer over the worker’s personal life, and more privacy. The disadvantages include the fear for increased security and safety risks, and increased cost and time for transportation. Some fear live-out DWs would be more vulnerable to bad influences, and that there could be an increased risk of pregnancy.
Novia discussed Indonesia’s announcement to stop sending domestic workers abroad in 2017. According to her, the announcement created confusion for many DWs, as Indonesia proposed a law making it obligatory for Indonesian domestic workers to live out at the same time. She mentioned recommendations to improve protection of Domestic Workers, such as ratifying ILO C189, which includes specifying more clearly items like working hours, contract, minimum wage, annual leave, sick leave, and the weekly day off. Novia also included the enactment of law in National level.
Moe Moe recalled her bad experiences at the hands of her previous employer, who abused her physically and mentally. She gave examples of their abuse, how they made her do jump like a rabbit around the living room, how they threw her food away when they were angry, and only allowed her to go to the toilet three times a day. Tree years after Moe Moe went to the police, her case is still in court (http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/couple-on-trial-for-abuse/2664324.html).
After that, Moe Moe discussed the problems Myanmar DWs face in Singapore. They include being underage, agencies overcharging, bad communication due to lack of English, abusive agents, no days off, injustice, long working hours, and women being victims of trafficking. Moe Moe expressed her concerns that that Myanmar DWs are more vulnerable, because they face communication problems due to their lack of command of English, and also their resilience in the face of abuse, which make it more difficult for them to ask for help.
Bhing Navato, the emcee of the forum, spoke further about C189, ILO’s Convention concerning decent work for Domestic Workers. She mentioned proposals covered in the Convention, which included minimum wage, weekly rest days, regulated working hours and many more that can improve jobs and lives of Domestic Workers. Singapore is among the countries in Asia who didn’t yet ratify the Convention C189.
After the presentations by the speakers, the participants were asked to form three groups. Each group was given specific topic (live out option, zero domestic worker in 2017, zero placement fee) and was asked to discus the topic and come up with recommendations. A group representative then shared these recommendations to everyone.
The recommendations will be presented during a meeting of HOME representatives, MOM, Embassies and Domestic Workers.
Amongst the recommendations made by the forum were the following:
- Living-out for Domestic Workers should be made optional
- Abusive employers should not be given any more chance to hire another DW, and should be punished according to law.
- POEA, OWWA and OEC should be made free and accessible for Overseas Filipino Workers
- There should be zero placement fee
- Laws should be passed governing the protection of Domestic Workers to and from receiving countries.
- Errant agencies should be punished
- DWs should be taught to speak English before they proceed to their place of work
- And, most of all, Singapore should ratify ILO C189.
These are just some of the many recommendations made during the forum sessions. The DWs are hoping that these recommendations will be considered and reviewed properly by the relevant authorities.