We Want Decent Work Now

Austerity Measures in Greece; Uprising in Syria; Nitaqat, the Saudization or nationalization of jobs in Saudi Arabia; Emiratization; Omanization; Singaporeans First.

Wherever it is in the world, there are Filipinos and other migrant workers who will be adversely affected by the political unrest and shrinking economy of destination countries. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) composed of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman have been trying for many years to solve the massive unemployment in each member state. They train their own nationals and provide incentives to private sector employers who are compliant to the government’s policy of hiring their citizens first. This will affect hundreds of foreign workers from the top labor suppliers to the Middle East, namely: Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Philippines and Sri Lanka.

Statistics from the Commission on Filipino Overseas (CFO, 2009) revealed that the estimated number of Filipino temporary workers in Greece is 45,560; Syria with 13,309; United Arab Emirates with 576,002; Oman, 35,900. The highest percentage is in Saudi Arabia with more than 1.138 million Filipino workers. They are workers with families back in the Philippines who depend on them for survival in a country whose economy is buoyed by the remittances of overseas workers.

With Nitaqat, hundreds of Filipino men who have worked in the Kingdom for more than six years have contracts that won’t be renewed. Those who are working in companies belonging to red and yellow zones should be able to transfer to a compliant employer before their contracts expire otherwise they have to face repatriation. Red and yellow zones are companies that employ less Saudi nationals than what is required by Niqata. The question is: Are we ready to welcome them home with good paying jobs awaiting them? Are there national industries and investments in infrastructure that can make good use of the expertise acquired by the overseas Filipinos workers in the construction, engineering and energy sectors?

Without secure jobs, Filipinos in Greece hesitate to come home despite the impending austerity measures that will likely result in lay-offs and pay cuts which eventually reduce remittances to the Philippines. Are there programs that will assist the reintegration of thousands of migrant workers in the Philippine labor market? Does the government have the capacity to prepare and support the repatriates for self-employment and entrepreneurship?

The Nitaqat system exempts household based employers and government –run institutions. With more men out of work, more women will troop to the Middle East to take care of the homes and children of Saudis who are enjoying better employment opportunities as a result of Saudization. Are the governments of the Philippines and Saudi Arabia serious and sincere in ensuring that employers are faithful to the terms of the contract and will treat the household workers with dignity and respect?

The employment situation in the Philippines is unique. There are more unemployed males (63%) than females (37%). The Bureau of Labor and Employment Statistics (BLES,2011) showed that househusbands are more common in the Philippines  with unemployed men leading housewives by over 700,000. This has been the trend for the past three years, according to BLES data. The International Labour Organization (ILO) noted these figures reflect a departure from statistics in the rest of Southeast Asia.

With the shrinking labor markets in the Middle East and the lack of opportunities for wage and salary work in the home country, the number of unemployed Filipino males will likely increase. Are there programs in place that will train men to become efficient home managers and effective parents as well as provide psychosocial support to the increasing number of men in their emerging roles as house husbands? Without these programs, men might vent their frustrations to women through physical, verbal and financial abuse and aggravate the latter’s multiple burden.

Women breadwinners in the Philippines are mostly engaged in vulnerable employment and low productivity jobs. Is the government ready to provide social protection, financial and technical assistance that will improve the efficiency and productivity of increasing number of women in the informal sector?

We want decent work for everyone; for both women and men; the youth and adults and the differently – abled. In cities and rural areas; in our own native land; near our homes and families. Work that earns us sufficient income to nourish ourselves, send our children to school and live a life of dignity. Work that treats us fairly and keeps us safe. Work that acknowledges the best in each of us. Work that helps eradicate poverty and promote peace everywhere. Work that uplifts us- mind, body and spirit.

We want decent work. Now.

The only jobs for which no man is qualified are human incubators and wet nurse.  Likewise, the only job for which no woman is or can be qualified is sperm donor.  ~Wilma Scott Heide

This article was part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future a program of World Pulse that provides rigorous new media and citizen journalism training for grassroots women leaders. World Pulse lifts and unites the voices of women from some of the most unheard regions of the world.



One thought on “We Want Decent Work Now

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