The Philippine’s Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is planning to limit the deployment of OFWs to the Middle East due to two main reasons, possible abuse by their employers and the decreasing number of skilled workers in the country.
According to DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello III, “I received a lot of concerns and complaints from our Filipino household workers in the Middle East. This is why I am seriously considering, if not to suspend, to decrease the number of deployment of domestic helpers, OFWs, and skilled workers, especially in the Middle East”.
While there is always the possibility of abuse by OFW employers, this can be mitigated or at least controlled by imposing rules and agreements between each countries’ Labor and Employment departments. Limiting job opportunities for OFWs should be the last resort especially since their families depend greatly on the income they provide. So before DOLE cuts of the opportunities for a decent livelihood, efforts must at least be done.
First, there should be efforts to conduct a proper screening of the employers much like how each OFW goes through rigorous application and interview processes. To be fair to the OFW, the employer should also be an upright citizen with a good record so that both parties will benefit. Second, there should be a solid contract between the employer and OFW that will ensure good working conditions. In that contract, there should be stipulations that will protect both the employer and the OFW. More importantly, each country’s Labor and Employment departments should have copies and authority to interfere when conditions go south.
In addition to the possible abuse, Bello stated that the decreasing number of skilled workers such as carpenters, electricians, and plumbers is becoming a problem since they prefer seeking job opportunities abroad. “We are studying the level of shortage of our skilled workers in the country. Even I had experienced this. Before, I can easily get a plumber with much lesser cost, but now, even if you offer a considerable amount of fee, these skilled workers would ignore you. So we should now slowdown in processing the deployment of these skilled workers.”
While there may be some truth to Bello’s remark above, this problem is a result of a much deeper problem in the Philippines where skilled workers are not compensated justly. Most skilled workers are being paid the minimum wage which is not enough to support a family. It only makes sense for them to seek employment with a stable higher pay. To keep the skilled workers from seeking jobs abroad, DOLE should initiate programs that would regularly employ skilled workers above the minimum salary or simply increase the minimum salary and decrease taxes.
DOLE’s plan to limit the OFWs to the Middle East will not do the Philippines or the OFWs any good. The OFW families will lose considerable sources of income while the country’s GDP and foreign relations will be adversely affected. To keep everyone satisfied, more well thought fundamental policies to combat the abuse and to keep skilled workers in the Philippines should be done. Limiting OFW jobs is just a short term strategy that might cause more harm than good.