Ofw Life In Kuwait Essay

The labour department said they still have to thresh out other details, specifically on the workers that would be covered by the order.

Department of Labour and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Silvestre Bello III is set to issue on Monday a total deployment ban order of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to Kuwait.

"A formal order on total deployment ban will be issued by Secretary (Silvestre) Bello on Monday," said DOLE Spokesperson Raul Francia on Saturday.

The DOLE official said they still have to thresh out other details, specifically on the workers that would be covered by the order.

"(Regarding new recruits), that has to be clarified in the order to be issued by the Secretary on Monday," Francia said.

With this, he noted that the labour chief is set to meet with two airline companies, which both expressed willingness to help repatriate OFWs.

"He's meeting with PAL and Cebu Pacific because they signified willingness to help," Francia added.

He also explained that the order of President Rodrigo Duterte to bring home OFWs within 72 hours only covers workers who would like to come home, distressed workers and the 2,000 who applied for amnesty.

The state of the filipino community – The lives, work and community politics of pinoys in kuwait

Filipinos form the fourth largest expatriate population in Kuwait - nearly 200,000 and growing. According to the Philippine Embassy, around 185,788 Filipinos were in Kuwait as of June 2014. This number was also reported by the Philippine Embassy’s Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Manila’s House of Representatives recently. The number of Filipinos in Kuwait grew by 15,000 based on the yearend report of the embassy of 171,000 Filipinos last year. A majority of Filipinos in Kuwait work in the domestic labor sector, with housemaids and nannies accounting for about 100,000 Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in Kuwait, according to figures provided to Kuwait Times by the Philippine Embassy (as of Dec 10, 2013). Filipina housemaids and nannies earn anywhere from KD 70 to KD 150 per month, though the embassy has implemented a $400 (KD 110 approximately) minimum monthly salary requirement. While the Filipino population in Kuwait is obviously growing and most of them are enjoying their stay, there are a few who are in dire conditions and in need of assistance. The statistics at the embassy shelter do not lie.

According to Philippine Labor Attache to Kuwait Cesar Chavez, since the start of his tenure as labor attache, housemaids running away from their employers have drastically dropped from 10-15 everyday to 4-6 daily. This was in one year’s time. Indeed, there is a considerable drop in the number of housemaids running away from their employers, but if you look at the newspapers in Kuwait, you’ll find stories of mistreated domestic helpers daily. The number of maids running away every day is loudly telling us the reality.

The truth is that both governments need to act on the matter. Their reasons vary, but nonpayment of salaries and abuses are in the forefront. Abuses take place because employers have plentiful chances to do so. Maltreatment is not part of their culture, but employers have substantial powers, giving them the opportunity to do whatever they can to their domestic helpers.

Domestic helpers are left at the mercy of their employers with very limited access to the outside world. Since their affairs are not part of the labor law implemented in Kuwait since 2010, domestic helpers’ concerns are handled by the police, and since their cases are handled by people with police powers, they stop short on lodging complaints against their abusive employers. So abuses, rape and suicide cases are not handled properly and are usually left unanswered. Filipino domestic helpers are the most sought workers among other labor exporting countries.

They are cited for being the most trusted, efficient and hardworking people. They are also said to quickly adapt to a new environment and swiftly learn basic Arabic besides being adept in basic English, which is mostly required by Arab employers for their children to learn English. For some Kuwaitis, having Filipino housemaids is also said to be a status symbol. There are mechanisms from both countries (Kuwait and Philippines) in place to protect and help domestic helpers.

Sadly, their efforts are not enough to protect and safeguard workers. There is no domestic labor law in Kuwait, which was promised a long time ago. The work contracts that serve as their only protection against unscrupulous employers are often inadequate to protect workers. There have been many campaigns by nonprofit groups in the Philippines and even here in Kuwait to prevent domestic helpers from working in Kuwait. “What we need is a clear domestic labor law in Kuwait respecting the rights of individuals with clear provisions including their rightful salary. The working hours must be clearly stated and must be implemented too. They should be given the right to transfer and penalties must be executed,” said Ann Abunda, present of a Kuwait-based NGO that aims to assist distressed OFWs in Kuwait.

Community politics Despite the conditions of many Filipinos, the community is vibrant and active in Kuwait. There are about 60 Filipino organizations comprising mostly of different clubs, regional and religious groupings, sports and professional clusters. They represent approximately about 10-12 percent of their total population here since a majority of Filipinos only want to perform their jobs here so as to provide for their loved ones and family back home.

Filipino politics/dynamics among community leaders in Kuwait are not just rampant, but they can be described as almost similar to those back home. Two previous ambassadors were subjected to inquest procedures by the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs as well as the Department of Justice for grave scandals and allegations of corruption during their ambassadorial stints here. Some of these cases have been dropped and others are still being heard back in Manila.

There are groups who openly support the embassy (Philippine government), but there are others who are also very critical of the embassy’s work. Divisions among some leaders cannot be denied as this can be confirmed during many Filipino gatherings and events here. One group organizes a big show, then another group does the same and another criticizes and compares. Organizations serving the same purpose divide and multiply four or five times. At the end of the day, they have no reason to be at odds with each other if the welfare of their countrymen is at stake and is compromised.

Education No public education is available for Filipinos. In order to survive, many Filipino parents prefer to send their children back to study in the Philippines. Some are not sent to school and some choose homeschooling instead, which is cheaper compared to traditional schooling in Kuwait. The situation is also similar for many Filipino students in various Middle Eastern countries. If they are earning just the basic salary or lesser than KD 600, chances are they’ll be struggling to educate two or three children in Kuwait. Besides, there is almost zero support from the Philippine government with regards to education and the future of many OFW students studying abroad or staying with their parents in Kuwait.

Pinoy entrepreneurs Filipinos are also well-represented in government and private companies in Kuwait. With the help of Kuwaiti partners, small businesses from spas to massage parlors to beauty shops and restaurants catering to local and Filipino customers are thriving. Except for non-halal food, basically all Pinoy products (food and non-food) needed by Filipinos for almost every occasion can be found in various supermarkets and groceries in Kuwait. They were not available here 5 or even 3 years ago, but nowadays, products and services are easily available here. There is also very limited support given by the Philippine government in this regard. But Filipinos are known to be survivalists and ready to take risks whatever it takes.

Hospitality industry In the hospitality industry, Filipinos in Kuwait are certainly visible in almost all companies here. Visit fine-dining and casual restaurants here, and you would certainly find Filipinos smiling and serving customers. Even fast food chains and cafes are dominated by Filipino workers. Based on the accounts of some Filipinos, while they are generally treated well by both customers and employers in the hospitality industry, there are isolated cases of discrimination - from the salaries of Filipinos to the rank or position they are in. The salaries of many in the fast food chains are very low, in contrast to the smiles and hospitable attitudes of many Filipinos.

While there are many Filipinos occupying higher positions in the industry, their ratio is very small compared to their Arab peers. Workers complain most high-level positions in the industry are only reserved for Arabic-speaking employees even though some Pinoys can be promoted and are highly qualified for these positions. The managements say Filipinos are excellent interpersonal communicators but lack appeal for high-level posts due to the language barrier.

On his Facebook account, Raymond Hernandez, perhaps one of few Pinoys occupying human resource positions in Kuwait, said he only has praise and commendation for Filipino workers in Kuwait. However, he’s sad that many are not actually reaching their potentials in the hospitality industry. He said Filipinos in the industry have very little ambition to grow and have no defined or concrete career goals. They have excellent work ethics and enthusiasm in the beginning, but become inconsistent - they are not determined and committed enough in their work. Hernandez said Filipinos are not really reaching their career peak because they lack mentors to help them develop their potentials. The Philippine government is also reticent in helping hospitality workers to be inspired and motivated. For many years, Filipinos have been described by many companies as the ‘gems’ in the hospitality industry, yet they lack support from their government.

Nurses While they are the most advantageous workers in Kuwait, the salary disparity of nurses though is also being questioned by many Filipinos in this sector. A number of Filipino nurses employed by private companies receive very little compared to their peers in the government sector. The huge disparity in salary has been reported several times in the local media here but very little has been done to compensate private nurses. To date, there are Filipino nurses receiving KD 200 or less against KD 1,200 plus for nurses working in the government sector. According to Xinhua news agency, remittances from overseas Filipino workers reached a record high of $25.1 billion in 2013 or 7.6 percent higher than the previous year, according to the Central Bank of the Philippines in Feb 2014. The central bank said remittances in the month of December alone amounted to $2.4 billion, up 12.5 percent compared to remittances recorded in Dec 2012. Cash remittances coursed through banks grew by 6.4 percent to $22.8 billion in 2013, exceeding the Philippine central bank’s projection of a 5- percent hike for the year. Yet, very little is done for their ranks.

The government said much of the cash collected from OFWs is usually spent on the repatriation of vulnerable workers from the Middle East or from countries ravaged by war. Several amounts are being collected from OFWs in the form of various fees - from authentication to getting their wedding records to insurance and terminal fees. There are also other forms of services which the government requires OFWs to pay, yet their services in return are never enough. Some would label the fees as extortion of hard-earned money from OFWs. Major sources of cash remittances last year were from the United States, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Canada and Japan. The central bank said the robust growth of remittances last year was due to the strong demand for skilled Filipino manpower abroad, particularly in the Middle East. Last year (2013), the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration showed that 1.8 million OFWs were deployed. The central bank said cash remittances supported local economic activity. It accounted for 8.4 percent of Philippine gross domestic product (GDP) in 2013.

(Note from the Editor: Ben Garcia is Kuwait Times’ senior reporter and editor of the weekly Filipino Panorama. He’s the best person to speak with regards to Filipinos in Kuwait as he’s been following the affairs of Filipinos in Kuwait since 2000. His stint as a newsreader at the Filipino service radio at the Ministry of Information and a reporter at Kuwait Times from 2003 is his best background to write this story)

By Ben Garcia

This article was published on 04/11/2014

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