Pinoy 'kasambahays' overworked, underpaid, UN says

Longer hours but among the world's lowest wages.

This is the working condition of "kasambahays" in the Philippines, new United Nations labor data show.

A domestic worker in the Philippines works 52 hours a week in 2010, the 7th longest work hours among the 39 countries with available data in the International Labor Organization (ILO) report released Jan. 9.

This is also higher than the globally accepted statutory limits on working time of 40 and 48 hours a week, said the report dubbed "Domestic workers across the world."

Pinoy kasambahays, however, get meager incomes with a national average equivalent to only 43.8 percent of the average incomes of the country's total paid workers.

This makes the Philippines the 11th country with the widest wage gap for domestic workers out of 22 economies with available wage data in the ILO report.

This, as it noted that the number of persons working for private households in the Philippines rose to 1.9 million in 2010 from 1.2 million in 2001.

Domestic workers who migrate to other countries for work meanwhile surged to 96,500 in 2010 from 63,000 in 1995, the report said.

"It is worth noting that the demographic profiles of domestic workers who work in the Philippines and those who migrate overseas differ significantly," the ILO said.

Filipinos "have a better knowledge of English and enjoy greater support from the sending country than migrant domestic workers from other sending countries and therefore command somewhat higher wages," it added.

Related story: Higher pay seen for Pinoy 'kasambahays'

But long working hours coupled with low wages is a condition not unique to the Philippines.

"Working hours of domestic workers around the world are among the longest and most unpredictable for all groups of workers," the ILO said.

Malaysia topped the list of countries with the longest working hours for domestic workers, at 65.9 hours a week as of 2008.

Also belonging to the top 10 are Southeast Asian neighbors Thailand (58.3 hours) and Indonesia (51.6 percent).

Live-in kasambahays who usually work on a full-time basis, the ILO said, are particularly impacted by extended working periods.

"A common practice is for the employer to a pay live-in domestic workers a flat weekly or monthly rate, but without specifying the working hours," the report said.

Also read: Pinoys working, living abroad still growing

"This practice is based on the employer's assumption that the domestic worker will be available whenever their services are needed," it added.

Low wages of domestic workers, meanwhile, can partly be attributed to low formal skills requirements in the sector, the ILO said.

Further pulling down wages, however, is the "undervaluation" which stems from "the perception of domestic work and caregiving as 'unproductive' work."

The view of tasks domestic workers perform as "typically female" also contributes to this undervaluation.

"To a large extent, domestic work involves tasks that women have traditionally shouldered in the home without pay," the ILO said.

These include cleaning, cooking, shopping and laundry, as well as caring for children, the elderly, disabled and other household members in need of care.

Background: Landmark treaty OK'd for domestic workers


The report therefore urged countries to "address decent work deficits at the national level though legislation and effective implementation of those laws."

Adherence to international labor standards in the 2011 Domestic Workers Convention could be used to guide such efforts, the ILO said.

The Philippines was the second country to ratify the convention last year, with the Senate and the House of Representatives approving a final version of a localized bill in November.

The "Kasambahay Bill" awaits President Benigno Aquino III's signature for enactment.

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