Raising Standards for Domestic Workers

front20130228Although the record of the current administration of the Philippines with respect to regulating labor has been unimpressive so far, Republic Act 10361, also known as the Batas Kasambahay or “Domestic Workers’ Act,” which took effective on February 10, is a notable exception. The law, which was signed by President Aquino on January 18, provides for a higher minimum wage for domestic workers and formalizes the sector by requiring employment contracts, coverage for domestic workers under the Social Security System (SSS), the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth), and the Home Development Mutual Fund (Pag-IBIG), and basic terms and conditions of employment.

The biggest feature of the new law is the minimum wages for domestic workers, which are significantly higher than what was originally provided for in the Labor Code. Workers in the NCR now must be paid at least P2,500 per month, while those in other cities and first-class municipalities receive P2,000 per month, and workers elsewhere receive P1,500 per month. Workers are also entitled to five days of paid leave per year, and must be allowed eight hours per day and one full day per week of rest, in addition to being provided proper accommodations, meals, and basic medical care.

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As a personal observation, I’m not so sure the common practice of employing domestic help is altogether healthy for society. Yes, it does give some people a chance at some sort of work that they might not otherwise have. Yes, it does give women greater opportunities to pursue careers. Whether these benefits adequately balance the drawbacks of increasing family dysfunction and stunting social development of children, I’m not certain, but I am inclined to think they do not.

In most of the rest of the developed world, domestic duties are a fact of life for all but the wealthiest people in society, and for young people it is an important part of social development. Most of us reach adulthood perfectly capable of mopping a floor, cooking a meal, and washing a batch of laundry, which not only makes us practically more self-reliant, it also instills that little bit of self-discipline that serves us well in school or work. Here, many kids, especially a great many who cannot actually afford to be domestically inept, grow up missing that basic skills familiarization. If it doesn’t actually turn them into entitled douchebags, it at least makes them next to helpless as far as functioning on their own. Have enough of the population in that condition, and it becomes a national- or ethnic-scale problem.

And before anyone asks, no, I do not have any domestic helpers of my own, nor have for years.

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About BenK

I write a column for The Manila Times on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Most of the energy sector and the heads of several government agencies probably wish I didn't.

One Comment on “Raising Standards for Domestic Workers”

  1. Domestic employment for many poor is the only way they can support their families. Upgrading their pay and benefits is the right thing to do. However, many well intentioned laws like this are not adequately enforced. Many domestics are still being treated like slaves. Without trade unions, individual workers are powerless to demand benefits and humane working conditions.

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