AN opposition House leader said on Sunday that China offers a more promising labor market for Filipino household service workers than the Middle East.
“Working and living conditions in China overall are better compared to the Middle East,” said House Deputy Minority Leader and ACTS-OFW party-list Rep. Aniceto Bertiz III.
“The problem with the Middle East is that they still have the kafala system, which China does not have,” said Bertiz.
Kafala refers to the sponsorship system used by countries in the Middle East to monitor foreign workers, particularly those in construction and domestic services.
The system requires all unskilled migrant laborers to have an in-country sponsor – usually their employer – who is responsible for their visa and legal status.
Kafala has been attacked by international human rights groups for creating the conditions for the exploitation of migrant workers, Bertiz said.
“Because of kafala, many employers tend to abuse their workers, whose passports are seized,” said Bertiz.
Kafala still operates in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Oman.
Owing to kafala, Bertiz said many individual employers in the Middle East still do not comply with the $400 minimum monthly pay set by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration for Filipino domestic staff abroad.
“In Saudi Arabia, for instance, there are employers who still pay their Filipino household service workers only $200 monthly,” said Bertiz.
Big demand for nannies
There is an explosion of demand for Filipino household staff, especially nannies, in China’s first-tier cities, Bertiz said.
“Demand is being driven by China’s rapid economic growth, which has lured some 600,000 expatriates to live and work there, as well as the growing number of upper middle class Chinese families who want their children to grow around English-speaking nannies,” said Bertiz.
Unofficial estimates peg at up to 200,000 the number of Filipinos providing domestic work, including child care services, in the world’s second-largest economy, according to Bertiz.
“In the case of nannies, many of them are between 30 to 35 years old. They also serve as private tutors to their wards,” said Bertiz.
Bertiz said several first-tier cities in China have allowed expatriates – mostly from South Korea, the United States, Japan, Canada, Germany and France – to bring in their own household staff, including nannies.
Guangdong province has the highest concentration of Filipino nannies, partly because it also has the greatest number of resident foreigners working for international corporations, said Bertiz.
A total of 102,421 migrant Filipino workers in China registered to vote in the May 13 mid-term elections, though only 40,816 of them, or 39.85 percent, actually voted, according to the Commission on Elections.