Carlo's Think Pieces

Reflections of a Filipino in the Netherlands

Posts Tagged ‘kasambahay’

On the Kasambahay Law

Posted by butalidnl on 12 February 2013

Some news reports say that the new Kasambahay Law (Republic Act 10361, “An Act Instituting Policies for the Protection and Welfare of Domestic Workers” was signed into law on 18 January 2013) will have the unintended consequence of making many people unemployed. Families who could not afford to pay P 2500/month (in Metro Manila) to their kasambahays are expected to lay them off en masse.
Let us take a closer look at this supposed effect.

There are two kinds of families who pay their kasambahays too little. First, there are those whose income is high enough, but who pay their kasambahays too little because they think that is all they deserve. These families would be forced to pay a decent living wage to their kasambahays. They may have to forego some very minor luxuries to do this.

Then, there are the families whose income is barely enough to support the family plus a kasambahay.  If such families cannot afford to pay P2500/month  to a kasambahay, they should simply not hire one. Very often, such families do not objectively need a kasambahay. They could easily divide household tasks among the members of the family.
For these families, having a kasambahay  is more a matter of prestige than an objective need. They want to underline the fact that their social status has risen by having a kasambahay.  Family members then think it would be beneath them to do household chores. But when they do hire a kasambahay, they could not afford to pay them properly, and the working conditions would often be bad (e.g. cramped sleeping quarters, bad food, long work hours).

When a family hires a kasambahay they are making a choice not to spend for some other things instead. Rationally, a family would hire a kasambahay when it is able to become more productive (and thus earn more money) as a result. This is the case when both partners work. But hiring a kasambahay may not always be the optimum solution. There are (theoretically) other choices open to them.
If they need help in specific tasks e.g. cooking, laundry, gardening, cleaning or taking care of children, there are options other than hiring a live-in kasambahay. Cooking could be done by sharing the task among all household members, or they could bring home cooked food. Children could go to day-care centers, and a good schedule of play-dates could be made for the other days. They could hire a labandera to come once a week, or bring their clothes to a laundry service; they could hire someone to clean the house or to work the garden once a week. These steps would probably be cheaper than hiring a live-in kasambahay.

Massive Lay-offs?
The main beneficiaries of the kasambahay arrangement are the families who employ them. The kasambahays also benefit, but only if they are paid properly and have decent working conditions. Overall welfare is not enhanced by allowing sub-standard payment and working conditions of kasambahays.

The Kasambahay Law imposes added financial and legal requirements for employers. But will it result in massive lay-offs of kasambahays? This is most unlikely. The majority of employers can afford to pay the required wages. The minimum wage of 2500 pesos is only for kasambahays in Metro Manila; it is 2000 pesos for other chartered cities and first-class municipalities, and only 1500 pesos for everywhere else. Most families already pay as much to their kasambahays; and those who don’t will probably only have to pay a little more to comply.

Employers will have more of a problem with the other requirements. Kasambahays need to be registered with the SSS, PhilHealth and Pag-Ibig, and the employers will need to make the monthly payments. The kasambahays need to be registered with the local barangays. The kasambahays must have a minimum of 8 hours of rest a day, and 24 hours off a week; they will have five days of annual leave with pay. Also, hiring children younger than 15 years old is prohibited.
A written contract will have to be accomplished, there is a list of valid reasons allowed for termination, employers should respect the kasambahay’s privacy. For their part, the kasambahay is now required to keep all information about the employers family confidential, even after their work with them is over.
All this means that employers’ relationship with their kasambahay will have to change.

The main ‘problem’ with the Kasambahay Law is not economic, but cultural. Filipinos are not yet used to treating their kasambahays as full fledged workers. It will take some years before people will have made the cultural adjustment.

Very few kasambahays presently employed will be laid off. There would probably be a shift from recruiting kasambahays from afar, to those coming from nearby.

National Development
In addition to its being a worker welfare law, the Kasambahay Law is a law that will foster Philippine national development. It will increase the cash that kasambahays receive, since: it bans delayed payment or payment in kind; deployment expenses will be shouldered by the employers; agencies will be prohibited from taking a part of the kasambahay’s salary. This increased cash would have multiplier effects when it is remitted to their home towns.

The law promotes the integration of kasambahays in the urban labor force. It will help make being a kasambahay a steppingstone to other jobs.

The rationalization of domestic labor that the law brings will gradually transform Philippine society. Domestic workers will eventually be hired only by families which can afford them AND really need them. Others would then be hired only for specific tasks, and this will streamline the labor market. More young girls would then go to high school in their hometowns instead of becoming kasambahays in the big cities. And many of those now working as kasambahays will pursue an education. This will come at a time when the country has an increasing need for educated workers, for which there is an impending shortage.

Posted in kasambahay, Philippine economics, Philippine education, Philippines | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

Where are all the Katulongs ?

Posted by butalidnl on 8 January 2011

Philippines, 9 January 2021. The past decade has seen great progress in the Philippines.  And of all the changes that have happened is one which we didn’t expect would affect the country a lot. And this is the widespread disappearance of live-in domestic servants, otherwise known as katulongs, maids, kasambahays. We are now several years after the era of katulongs is over, and we are living normal lives, losing all our katulongs didn’t result in widespread disaster after all. We learned to live with it, and to thrive even.

Strictly speaking, there are still katulongs in the Philippines. According to the statistics, there are about 50,000 left – domestic servants who are live-in. But this is a far cry from the 2.5 million that were katulongs in 2010. These residual katulongs work mostly for the really rich Filipinos, and the statistics include live-in drivers. They are also quite well paid, if we compare with the 2500 pesos minimum wage for kasambahays in 2011. It is quite common to find katulongs being paid upwards of 8000 pesos per month these days.

What Happened?
A number of things happened. First, the government’s Conditional Cash Transfer program reached millions of families; and it required families to send their children to school, in exchange for a cash payment. Many families opted to join this program, rather than send their teen daughters to work as domestic help.

Second, there was a surge in demand for high school graduates in the labor force.  Millions of workers were needed to work at the many companies that sprouted as a result of the “ASEAN Supply Chain” industries. These were companies that worked on various electronic and appliances, with various parts made in different ASEAN countries. This grew starting 2010 to big proportions, especially with the “China plus 1” policy of Japan and Taiwan, which encouraged companies to have a foot in China, and another in ASEAN (as insurance against possible problems in China). This trend was reinforced by the Chinese raising of wages and US extra taxes on Chinese products.

Initially, the development of the ASEAN Supply Chain, and the booming Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industries, and growing number of Overseas Filipino workers,  led to more, not less, people having katulongs. But, with the growth of the economy, there grew the need for people in all kinds of work, like producing consumer products and services.

Separation of Services
People started to pay separate for services previously done by the live-in katulongs.  There would be cleaning women who would work for a four hour period every week for a given household. These women would work for more households, and it pays more for them to contract out their cleaning services than to just stay and live-in with one family.
There would be the labandera who would do all of a family’s laundry on a certain day of the week.  Children are now brought to school and back by FX drivers who are contracted by groups of parents. And day care centers have sprouted to take care of people’s pre-school children. This has taken the place of yayas, for the most part.

Most families have coped  by distributing cooking duties among themselves. The mother/wife is no longer automatically the one who does this task. Very often, it would be the father or the eldest son or daughter who would cook the meals.  And if there are more children, setting and clearing the table and washing dishes are done by the younger ones. And midday meals are more often eaten at work or schools anyway; so there is only breakfast and supper that needs to be eaten at home. One could get a warm cooked meal from someone who cooks in the neighbourhood. Supermarkets also sell meals that are easier to cook, with all ingredients put together.

Children now are burdened with less homework as compared to 2010. Now, elementary school children are expected to spend more time at play and doing chores at home. So, teachers don’t give them too much assignment. And it turned out that they learn about the same as before. So, it worked out well for everyone.

Good for Economy
Why distribute the functions, instead of having the one live-in katulong? Well, the main reason was it was getting too expensive, and there were no more women who were willing to do the work.  But, on hindsight, distributing the functions is more efficient, and good for the economy. Less people, in total, are needed to do all the cleaning and washing.  And cooking – well, this has transformed the kitchen; with people investing in all kinds of kitchen appliances and instruments. And now, trained people are taking care of the babies, instead of the teen barrio girls who used to do this; resulting in a better upbringing of children.

This whole thing has been good for the economy: there are more products and services that are made, and everybody gets to work more efficiently and fully. Things like day care and cafeterias have grown, giving employment to many people. And since more people are efficiently employed, there is more buying power for consumers overall. Thus, the bigger demand for products of all kinds.

It is going so well with the economy, that people are talking about there being a labor shortage.  There are lesser people who want to work abroad.  This has led to a situation where deployment of some kinds of workers is drying up (e.g. domestics for Hong Kong etc), and the recruiting fees for other work has gone down dramatically.  Some say that this would be bad for the economy, with less foreign exchange coming in. But I think this is a good trend; I’m quite happy about it.

Posted in kasambahay, Overseas Filipinos, Philippine economics, Philippines | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Kasambahay Bill: House Turn to Pass it

Posted by butalidnl on 19 December 2010

The Philippine Senate passed on 13 December SB 78, the Kasambahay Bill. Kasambahay is a term that includes all household help e.g. maids, cooks, houseboys, yayas, and drivers.  The bill requires that there be a written contractual agreement between the employer and kasambahay which shall state the ff: period of employment, monthly compensation, annual salary increase, duties and responsibilities, working hours and day-off schedule, and living quarters. The contract should be in a language that the kasambahay understands. The employers will also be required to pay premiums for their kasambahays in the Social Security System (SSS) and Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).

Employers have to pay their kasambahays at least 2500 pesos in Metro Manila, 2000 pesos in cities and first class municipalities, and 1500 pesos elsewhere. The employer should also provide for adequate food, suitable living conditions, and whatever medicine and equipment their work requires.

The bill, when it is finally signed into law, will benefit about 2 million kasambahays all over the country.

Some people have expressed concerns that the price of employing kasambahays will then become “unaffordable” for some middle class families, resulting in unbearable “maidlessness” of those families.  But when you look closer, these families  mostly have their children going to private schools and they may own their own car. I think it is really a question of budgeting. A service as important as that of a maid deserves a decent salary. If those families feel that they can’t afford domestics, then that’s alright; not having maids is not the end of the world.  I live in the Netherlands, and I have never experienced having maids. All it takes to cope is for the family  to divide the tasks among themselves (meaning that the husband and children have household chores). 

Providing a minimum level of compensation and ensuring good working conditions for kasambahays is quite important for the national economy and national development.  It’s like the minimum wage law for other workers.  It is a measure that ensures a decent level of living for workers. Otherwise it will be simply exploitation, which is the extraction of work from someone without the corresponding compensation.

Filipino families are often guilty of maltreating their kasambahays.  Filipinos are among the worst employers of Filipino domestics abroad. This is because they bring their Philippine concepts on how to treat domestics with them.  We may even maltreat our kasambahays without noticing it. The most common form of maltreatment is requiring them to work very long hours – very often, from 6 am till 10 pm.  This is a terribly long work day. Don’t regular workers work only a maximum of 40 hours/week? Why do we require our kasambahays to work 96 hours a week (i.e. if they get a whole day off every week). Some kasambahays don’t even get free days, and this may mean not being able to go to their church, or ever visit their families.

And on top of all the maltreatment, many employers don’t even pay their kasambahays enough.  I think this reflects more on the low esteem that they have for their kasambahays, than on a lack of cash.

Ensuring decent wages for kasambahays is part of the country’s economic and social development.  Their wages are an  important part of the income of their families.  Society will also not develop that fast if there are workers who are extremely exploited. Much of the work that many kasambahays are required to do are not really that necessary; the family could do it themselves, actually.  It is just that since the kasambahay is there after all, they let her do it. It is often not economically necessary work, and even results in spoiling the children of the employers. And, since kasambahays are cheap labor, they also get low social esteem. I mean, how many employers have ever visited the family of their kasambahay? Are the ashamed to do it? don’t have time? I think it is simply that the thought never even entered their mind.

It’s the House’s Turn
Now that the Senate has finally passed a Kasambahay Bill, it’s now the turn of the House of Representatives to pass it. It had passed one already in the year 2000, but the Senate then did not pass it also. So, I expect that this should not be that difficult to pass again, this time. It just has to be marked as a priority bill, and then it will surely pass.

Once it becomes law, it will then be a matter of implementing it. I don’t think that all employers will draft a working contract with their kasambahays the day after the bill is passed. But I think the practice of making a working contract, and paying minimum wages will gradually be more and more implemented. The bill will not solve everything for the kasambahays, but it will be a good start.

Ref: Kasambahay Bill Situationer

Posted in kasambahay, Philippine economics, Philippines, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

Needed: Laws to Protect Domestic Workers in the Philippines

Posted by butalidnl on 16 August 2009

Many households in the Philippines employ domestic helpers.  They are almost indispensable in a middle class family home. But despite their many contributions to society, Filipinos do not appreciate them fully.

It is important for Philippine society as a whole that the  domestic workers are treated well.  It goes beyond decency, you could see their situation as a labor issue, a developmental issue, and a human rights issue.

Labor issue
Domestic workers are one big unorganized mass of workers. Many people don’t  think of their domestics as workers. But in reality, these domestics work hard, and they are not fully protected by Philippine law. They often work without contracts, do not have social security or medical coverage, and work long hours. Many of them are under the age of 18, and thus are children.

While we may say that there are many workers also with similar conditions, the difference with domestics is that they are not really recognized as workers in our labor laws, and there are no rules or guidelines on how they should be treated or compensated.  The continued nonrecognition of domestic work as regular work undermines the whole structure of labor laws, since there is one big and glaring exception or loophole in it.

Development issue
Domestic workers make up a significant part of the country’s economy. Their main contribution is that they free middle class women to be able to pursue their careers.  Then, they  send back part of their pay to their families, helping to sustain their families in the rural areas.  And domestic work can be seen as a possible transition to urban life, and more formal work.

If the “under-18” domestic workers are given a chance to pursue their studies, then they would have a chance to get good paying jobs after their stint as domestic workers. While studying reduces the number of hours that they can do domestic work; this is more than compensated by the higher quality of the worker.

Human rights
There are also human rights issues concerning domestic workers.  The first of this would be the right of domestic workers to “rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay” (International Declaration of Human Rights, IDHR, No. 24).  There are as yet no clear guidelines on the work/rest hours for domestics.

And then, there are the rights of the child (International Convention on the Rights of the Child) with states that the child has the right to education. Child domestics (i.e. younger than 18 years old) have the right to go to school, and that their domestic work scheduled should be adjusted accordingly,without being too long as a result (since they also have the right to rest and leisure).

First Steps
As a first step towards addressing the labor, development and human rights issues connected with domestic workers, there needs to be a clear legal framework for this.  What is need is a Magna Carta for Domestic Workers, or “Batas Kasambahay” (Kasambahay = domestic workers).  Bills to this effect have been filed  in the House of Representatives and the Senate, but it has mainly been successful in the House. There is a nationwide signature campaign urging Congress (especially the Senate) to pass the Batas Kasambahay.

Since 2005, a number of local governments have passed local ordinances to register and provide programs for domestic workers.  These need to happen throughout the country.

See also: Domestic Workers in the Philippines

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