Skilled and professional Filipinos could suffer a knock-on effect if the country bans its citizens from working as domestic staff in the UAE, Kuwait and Qatar, officials and recruitment experts warned yesterday.
The Philippine department of foreign affairs has recommended the ban because it believes the three countries do not adequately protect domestic workers' rights.
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Although the ban has yet to receive final approval, Emmanuel Geslani, an overseas recruitment consultant in Manila, warned it "appears to be an insult" to the three Gulf countries.
"Some of the employers in these countries may retaliate by pressuring their government to impose a ban on deployment of all Filipino workers," he said.
The country's Migrant and Overseas Filipino Workers Act was amended last year to allow Filipinos to work in a country only if it has social and labour laws that protect their rights, has ratified international declarations on the protection of migrant workers, and has bilateral agreements with the Philippines regarding workers' rights.
Domestic staff in the UAE do not fall under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Labour, and as such have fewer protections than other workers.
In June, the UAE voted in favour of an International Labour Organisation charter on domestic workers' rights. The charter addresses many common problems such as non-payment of wages, overwork and contract substitution; as well as rights including clearly defined conditions of employment before domestic staff start work, a monthly salary paid in cash and at least a day off every week.
It also requires governments to regulate private employment agencies and stop employers deducting recruitment fees from maids' wages.
UAE officials have yet to spell out what changes will be made to give the charter the force of law, or when.
The Philippines' labour secretary, Rosalinda Baldoz, said over the weekend that the governing board of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration had to review the proposal before a ban could be imposed.
If adopted, the ban would be implemented at once, she told The Philippine Star.
Danilo Cruz, the labour undersecretary, said yesterday from Manila that a resolution could be issued "in the next few days".
On Thursday, Mr Geslani suggested that the number of Filipinos working overseas as housemaids and nannies could halve this year.
The UAE, Kuwait and Qatar attracted almost half (46 per cent) of the 96,583 Filipinos who left their homeland last year to work overseas as domestic staff. Of these, the UAE accounted for 13,184.
Mr Geslani said the ban, if implemented, would upset recruiters in Manila. "It means opportunities are lost for Filipinas hoping to work in these countries as domestic workers and provide a better life for their families."
Nasser Munder, the Philippine labour attaché in Abu Dhabi, said around 25,000 of the UAE's 600,000 Filipinos were currently employed as domestic staff and that recruitment agencies here were "very concerned" about the prospect of a ban. "The licence fee for operating a recruitment agency here has increased from Dh50,000 to Dh300,000 and the ban will certainly have adverse effects on their business."
He said a ban would result in people circumventing the law. "Can we stop Filipinos from entering the UAE as tourists and later land jobs as domestic workers?" he asked "They will use countries such as Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia as jump-off points to the UAE and other countries in the Middle East."