Middle East domestic helpers call for wage increase

The rising cost of living in the Philippines due to TRAIN Law and the upsurge in the prices of basic commodities in the Middle East due to VAT-implementation has prompted SANDIGAN (Samahan ng mga DH sa Gitnang Silangan) to call for a $700 wage hike for household workers in host countries.

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During the group’s assembly at Redemptorist Church in Baclaran, SANDIGAN spokesperson Pinky Alamo said, “Due to historic high inflation rates in the Philippines and Middle Eastern countries, domestic helpers who receive slave wage rates can no longer endure the rising cost of goods and services. Moreover, their families in the Philippines are battered by Duterte’s TRAIN law. According to economic experts, a family of 6 needs a daily living wage of Php1,175 to survive. A $700 wage hike will draw the earnings of DHs close to the cost of family-living in the Philippines.”

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Consumers in the Middle East are feeling the pinch of the inflation. According to reports, food cost in Saudi rose to 6.7% last month. Turkey’s inflation hit a staggering 16%. In the Gulf region, Saudi and UAE were the first to introduce VAT at 5%. Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait are expected to follow suit. Workers and even their employers in Saudi are now complaining about the expat dependent tax which is now impacting their savings and expenses.

The group also blasted former President Gloria Arroyo for her ‘Supermaid’ program, implemented in 2006, that pinned the wages of DHs to $400. Alamo added that the Arroyo regime did not even consider inflation and the up-down movement in the exchange rates. SANDIGAN also expressed outrage against Arroyo’s re-emergence as House Speaker. It likewise noted that domestic work is still not recognized as regular work in the Middle East which keeps household workers from experiencing the benefits regular workers have.

“It is also about time that DHs in the Middle East be recognized as workers with rights to overtime pay and other benefits. At the same time, we also want to assert our rights to organize and to have our collective demands recognized by governments in host countries,” Alamo asserted.

Meanwhile, Migrante International spokesperson Arman Hernando deplored the Duterte government’s poor reintegration program. Hernando said that contractualization and the absence of a national minimum wage reinforces forced migration. The Philippines is still one of the top-sources of deployed household workers overseas as the country remains to have the highest unemployment rate in the ASEAN region.

“Increasing the wages of domestic helpers and recognizing them as workers while enjoying labor rights such as the right to organize or unionize is a leap towards attaining our calls #StopTheAbuse #EndModernDaySlavery,” Hernando concluded.

 

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