Red tape delays Filipina maids heading to the UAE for work

A three-week wait for orientation seminars required by the Philippine government is causing a delay in the hiring of maids in the UAE.

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ABU DHABI // Filipinas who plan to work in the UAE as domestic staff face a three-week wait to get an appointment for an orientation seminar in Manila, recruiters say.

Philippine regulations require migrants to attend a one-day pre-departure orientation seminar which familiarises them with the employment contract, the profile of the country, health and safety, airport procedures and government programmes and services.

The aim is to provide information on how to minimise problems while working and living abroad.

The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (Owwa) launched a pre-departure education programme for household workers in 2009. It includes the one-day orientation, language and culture training, and a stress management course all in a single programme, which lasts for three to six days.

“We’re having problems with the schedule of the seminar,” said Loreta Ochoa, an owner of Jinhel International Recruitment Corporation in Manila. “The delay in their deployment means we need to spend more for their accommodation, food and toiletries which we provide free.”

On June 3, her agency put in a request for 20 Filipina maids to attend the three-day seminar, and was told seats would not be available until June 26 or 28.

“They have to wait for more than three weeks when they should be working for their employers in the UAE,” Ms Ochoa said.

A member of staff at an Abu Dhabi-based agency said fewer Filipina maids and nannies were being hired due to the US$400 (Dh1,469) a month minimum wage set by the Philippine government.

However, a delay would be problematic for employers who still favoured Filipinas. The agency used to recruit 20 women a month. The number dropped to 13 in January and to eight last month. “Employers are telling us that for $400, they can get two Indonesian maids,” she said.

Domestic workers bound for Saudi Arabia face a wait of up to two months to attend a seminar, said Emmanuel Geslani, a recruitment consultant in Manila.

“The next available slot is in August,” he said. “It’s causing a big delay in their deployment.”

“The orientation seminar aims to enhance the protection of the household workers,” said Lito Soriano, chief executive of LBS Recruitment Solutions in Manila. “If the government is unable to provide immediate training, then these workers are not being treated well even before they leave the country.”

Carmelita Dimzon, the head of Owwa, said they were now finding ways to address the backlog. One of the proposed solutions was to ask recruitment agencies to help conduct the seminars.

A flood of contracts from Saudi Arabia since January has caused a backlog. In October, Saudi Arabia lifted a ban on the hiring of Filipino domestic workers. The ban was put in place in July 2011 after a disagreement over wages.

Last month, the Philippines and Saudi Arabia agreed on a standard employment contract for domestic workers, including the $400 minimum wage.

"The volume is terrible and unimaginable," Ms Dimzon said. "The problem is, everyone wants to go at the same time. We have a long list of resource speakers but we are stretched to the limit and unable to cope with the unexpected volume."