“While the government relies on the remittances of our OFWs to keep the economy afloat, there are still many cases of abused OFWs because the government continues to neglect them.” – Garry Martinez, Migrante
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – People seeking jobs abroad have been buried in debt even before they flew out of the country for employment. Ivy Martillano, 31, for one, is buried in debt and might face charges of estafa if she is not able to settle her debt with Golden Right Pay Light lending agency. She has an existing loan of P70,000 ($1,627), which she was not able to pay because she did not finish her contract as a domestic helper in Hong Kong.
In November 2011, Martillano applied as a domestic helper in Hong Kong because her husband does not have a regular job. “We have two children who we have to feed. I have no job here in our country, my husband, on the other hand, has no regular job. So I opted to apply for work abroad,” Martillano said in an interview with Bulatlat.com.
However, Martillano had a cruel employer abroad. “After only three days, I already wanted to go home. My female employer threw water at me because its temperature was not as she expected. Good thing the water was not too hot,” she said.
Martillano acquired the loan to pay for her placement fee so that she could immediately go to Hong Kong and work. But she could no longer take the maltreatment of her employer and after three months, she finally decided to go home.
“In a period of one year, I was the sixth helper who did not finish the contract with that family because she abuses us.”
She said she worked from 6:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. nonstop. Her only “rest” was while ironing their clothes. She stood while eating and before she slept she would hand wash all the baby’s clothes. She was also made to serve her female employer’s parents. “In my contract, it was stated that I would only work for them, working for her parents was not included. I was treated like a slave. I even got respiratory tract infection because of exhaustion. Every night I prayed that three months would end so I could go home.”
Martillano is only one of the many OFWs who experienced maltreatment in the hands of a cruel employer. They are compelled to work abroad as the economic crisis in the country is worsening. Under the administration of President Benigno “Noynoy” S. Aquino III, a huge number of Filipinos are still going abroad to work. Data from Migrante International, a global alliance of overseas Filipinos, shows that from January to October 2011, an additional 1.35 million Filipinos have been forced to go abroad due to lack of opportunities, decent jobs and wages, livelihood and social services in the country. The group said this figure is higher by 5.3 percent than the 1.281 million OFWs who were deployed from January to October 2010.
Labor export policy has intensified under Aquino
In his two years in office, the group said, Aquino has done nothing to alleviate forced migration and instead pursued a more intensified, aggressive and sophisticated labor export policy than his predecessors.
There are many Filipinos like Martillano who have no work here in the country and are being pushed to seek employment abroad. And because she is a mother, she has to find a way to make her family survive. According to independent think-tank Ibon Foundation, the number of unemployed Filipinos has risen to unprecedented heights from 2001 to 2010 and even continues to reach record-high levels under Aquino. “One in every four workers is either jobless or underemployed.”
Those who find jobs in the country suffer from low wages. According to Migrante, since 2001, the gap between the mandated minimum wage and family living wage (FLW) in the National Capital Region (NCR) had considerably widened. “In 2001, the minimum wage was 52 percent of the FLW; by the end of 2011, the P426 ($9.90) minimum wage in NCR was only 43 percent of the P993 ($23) FLW.”
According to Ibon, for a family of five to eat a decent meal at least three times a day, they should earn at least P993 ($23). However, the average family in NCR now lives on P22 ($0.51) to P37 ($0.86) a day.
That is why even if it is difficult to produce money for the requirements to be able to get jobs abroad, still, many Filipinos try to find ways, even to the extent of being heavily indebted, to produce money and risk their lives trying their luck overseas. Migrante’s data shows that there are now 12 to 15 million OFWs scattered in 239 countries. The International Organization of Migrants (IOM) places the Philippines as the fourth leading migrant-sending country in the whole world, next only to China, Mexico, and India.
Data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) shows that there are 1.5 million Filipinos deployed abroad in 2010. Majority are deployed in Saudi Arabia (239,049), UAE (201,214) and Hong Kong (101,340). According to Migrante, most of the OFWs are in the service sector (154,535) working as domestic workers, hotel restaurant staff and caregivers; 129,647 are in manufacturing as factory workers; and 41,835 are professionals (doctors, nurses, teachers, etc.). Add to that the 341,150 sea-based workers.
But even jobs abroad are also decreasing. According to a study by Migrante, job orders have decreased over the years even before the global economic crisis hit. Data from the POEA shows that there were only 341, 966 new hires in 2010. Migrante said the number of new hires decreased by 2.2 percent compared to 2009 (349,715) and 2008 (376,973). The number of new hires also decreased in the first quarter of 2011; according to POEA data, there were only 380,188 new hires deployed or 3.9 percent lower than the 395,189 new hires deployed during the same period in 2010.
Sarah Maramag, campaign coordinator of Migrante said the government tries to hide the decrease in job orders abroad to protect its labor export policy. Data from the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) reveal that there are 15 million OFWs.
However, even with the decreasing number of jobs available abroad, more and more Filipinos still leave the country. At least 4,500 OFWs leave the country every day through the POEA. Add to this the millions who leave through irregular means, said Migrante. “They are those who become victims of trafficking and illegal recruitment, who eventually become undocumented in countries of transit or destination with the hope of landing jobs, despite not having regular documents.”
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