Department of Labor and Employment • Republic of the Philippines

GB Resolutions/
Memorandum Circulars

on HSWs

POEA GB Resolution No. 13
POEA GB Resolution No. 14



Statements of support to
the package of reforms

Catholic Bishops Conference
of the Philippines-Episcopal Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People (CBCP-ECNI)

Association for Professionalism in Overseas Employment Inc. (ASPROE)

Manila Times Editorial




Question & Answer


Q. What are the recent protection and welfare enhancement reforms being implemented by the POEA for the recruitment and deployment of Household Service Workers, or HSWs?

 A. The Reforms are:

1.   Higher minimum deployable age which was increased from 18 to 25;

2.   Higher minimum entry salary which was increased from US$ 200 to US$ 400 per month;

3.   Prohibition on collection of placement fee from the HSW, whether done prior to their departure or on-site thru salary selection;

4.  Higher competency standards for prequalification of workers thru possession of HSW NC2 TESDA Certificate of Competency and attendance to the Language and Culture Orientation provided for free by OWWA;

5. Higher standard of prequalification for Foreign Placement Agency and its  foreign employer; and

6.  Prohibition on HSWs/DHs markets as compliance with new market requirements for issuance of new license.

Q. What is the justification for the increase in the minimum age to 25?

A.  The increase in age is expected to provide employers with better skilled and physically and psychologically prepared HSW. It will ensure a higher level of maturity and sense of responsibility of the worker in dealings with her  employer and towards her work. This will effectively reduce incidents of homesickness and psychological un-preparedness of the worker which are often the causes of “runaways” and contract pre-termination. In the 2001 survey conducted in Hong Kong, HSWs deployed to that country tend to be older, better educated, have a broad range of professional experiences and are reported to be between 25 and 30 years old.

Q. What is the reason for the increase in salary to US$400? Will it not result in pricing the HSWs out of the market and, as a consequence, effectively close the HSW market to Filipinos?

A. The increase in salary is long overdue. US$200 has been the minimum salary since we started the overseas employment program almost four decades ago. It is about time that we increase their pay. We should remember that they are not our regular 8 – 5 workers with entitlement to overtime pay in excess of 8 hours of work. They are in a household setting and they are on call by their employers 24 hours a day and 6 to 7 days a week, without overtime pay.

Hong Kong and Taiwan are two markets in Asia that have been paying our HSWs US$400 a month even without the mandatory skills assessment and culture and language proficiency. Other markets like Israel and those in America, Canada and in Europe like Switzerland, Netherlands, Spain and Italy have also been paying beyond the US $400 minimum salary for HSWs. If employers in these countries place high premium to the services of our HSWs, there should be no reason why employers in other countries cannot pay at least the minimum rate of US$400 if they want the services of our HSWs. Employers that will have to increase their salaries if they want to employ HSWs from the Philippines are those from existing markets of Singapore, Malaysia, Lebanon, Jordan, Kuwait, KSA, UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and Cyprus.

 The principle of free market and free enterprise will continue to govern the HSW markets and employers will continue to enjoy a free choice in hiring HSWs from the different labor-supplying countries. It was a deliberate policy decision of the POEA Governing Board not to close the HSW market but to move it in the higher end of the market, not only in terms of salary but also in terms of skills proficiency, language and culture orientation.

Q.   If there is no placement fee to be collected by the agency from workers, who will    shoulder the cost of hiring and deploying HSWs?

A.   In general, licensed agencies are allowed to collect from applicant workers placement fee in an amount that is equivalent to the worker’s one month salary. And this has been applied to HSW under the old rules. Collection of placement fee from HSWs is now prohibited under the new regulation.  Consistent with most host country regulations, employers shall pay a service fee to shoulder all the cost of hiring and deploying HSWs. Very clearly, licensed agencies can still collect placement fee or service fee, provided that it should not be shouldered by the worker but by the foreign employer.

     Under the existing regulations of POEA, violation of the prohibition on no-placement fee collection is considered a grave offense whereby the imposable penalty is cancellation of license, regardless of the number of complainants or amount of placement fee collected. 

Q. Why are we requiring HSWs to undergo skills assessment? What is the HSW NC2 Certificate issued by TESDA? Is skills training mandatory prior to skills assessment? How much is the cost of training? How much is the cost of skills assessment and who pays the cost?

A. Section 2 (g) of RA 8042 recognizes that the ultimate protection to all migrant workers is skill possession. Under the new regulations, before a worker is deployed overseas, she must possess an HSW NC2 certificate from TESDA. The certificate will attest to her possession of the four core skills competencies, namely, house cleaning, laundry and ironing, preparation of hot and cold meals, and provision of hot and cold food and beverage services.

Training is not mandatory. A worker, because of her previous and extensive experience as a domestic helper, either local or overseas, may opt to go directly for assessment to any of the TESDA accredited assessment centers. Should she fail three times, then training becomes mandatory.  TESDA does not prescribe the training cost. They allow training centers to determine their rate and compete with the market. The prevailing training fee ranges from P10,000 – 15,000 for the mandatory 216 hours training.

The cost for assessment is P1,000 and the whole assessment procedure takes about 3 – 4 hours. The assessment center issues the result  immediately after. The corresponding NC2 certificate issued by the TESDA District Office can be claimed after five days because TESDA reviews and validates the result and procedures conducted by the assessment center. An HSW who fails in the assessment has to wait for 1 month before she can undergo re-assessment to give her enough time to improve on her skills and increase her chances of passing the assessment.

Q. Why are they required to undergo language and culture orientation before they can be deployed? Who pays for the cost and how long does the orientation take?

A.  HSWs are required to attend a 3 day country specific language and culture orientation which is provided for free by OWWA. This will equip them with a basic knowledge on the culture and language of their employer.  Most of the crimes committed by our workers abroad are called “cultural crimes” or those that are not, by general standards in our country, illegal but are being prohibited in certain countries/states since they offend the culture, practice or traditions of the people.

Q. What higher standards of pre-qualification are now required of the foreign placement agencies (FPA) before thy can hire HSWs?

A . It is the task of foreign placement agencies to find good and responsible employers for our HSW. They are the counter-part of our licensed agencies in the Philippines. Because of their vital role, before they can be accredited as an FPA, they are, among others, required to comply with the following: 1) attend an orientation on Philippine culture, policies and responsibilities; 2) execute an undertaking for the humane treatment of our HSWs and provide them the necessary assistance at the work-site; 3) monitor their conditions and closely coordinate and cooperate with our embassy/POLO in addressing their problems.  

     Among their duties are the following: 1) fetch our HSWs upon their arrival in the work-site; 2) intercede to work out the differences between the HSW and the employer; and 3) find a replacement employer should efforts to reconcile the HSW with his original employer fail.

     Direct employers are also screened thru an interview by the Labor Attache to make sure that they are not only financially capable of paying the salary of the worker but they are also qualified in terms of not having any record of abuse or maltreatment committed against their foreign workers. The prequalification of FPAs and the foreign employers are functions that are performed by our Philippine Overseas Labor Offices located in 34 foreign countries/cities worldwide.

Q.   Are there actual cases and experiences in managing the migration of HSWs that compelled to the POEA Governing Board to pass the package of reforms?

A. The urgency of the reforms can be better appreciated by referring to the OWWA/POEA statistics. In the Middle East alone, the welfare cases handled by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration last year involved more than 25,000 HSW, or more than 30% of all newly hired Household service workers deployed annually to the 70 countries hosting our HSW.  In terms of requests for repatriation at the POEA, last year a total of 2,075 requests were received involving distressed HSW who are physically, mentally and sexually abused by their employers or whose contracts are being violated. 

Over the same period, POEA handled 1,040 complaints of various recruitment violations from our HSWs, which include excessive placement fee, misrepresentation, contract substitution and shortchanging of salaries/remittances. These reforms are clearly meant to protect and enhance the welfare mechanism of our HSWs to ensure a better and humane treatment by their employers.

The recent study conducted by the International Labor Organization on the conditions of work in domestic services in a number of host countries listed  several malpractices, abuses and exploitation committed against them, which include the following: 1) fraudulent recruitment practices such as over charging of fees, contract substitution on arrival and non respect of right to change employer in case of abuse; 2) long working hours (over 100 hours per week) without payment of overtime and without a weekly rest or paid annual leave; 3) restrictions on movement and complete social isolation; 4) verbal and physical maltreatment and several cases of sexual abuse; and 5) false accusations of theft to avoid paying a return ticket for the worker or renewal of residence permit.

The recent incident on the plight of our workers repatriated from Lebanon including those witnessed by our President during her visit to Saudi Arabia also triggered the urgent approval of there reforms. And their problems are also shared by our HSW in other countries. They are the most overworked, under compensated and vulnerable of the all the skilled workers that we send abroad.

Q. When is the effectivity the reform package?

A. These measures took effect last December 16, 2006 for newly hired workers and March 1, 2007 for returning workers.

Q.  Who are covered?

A. These reforms apply to household workers and caregivers or caretakers who shall be working in a household setting. It will not cover those whose work assignments are institution-based.

Q. Is there a transition to ensure the smooth implementation of these reforms?

A.  Earlier, we mentioned that the effectivity date of the reform package is December 16, 2006 for new hires and March 1, 2007 for returning workers. In implementing these reforms, a transition period is provided in order not to unduly prejudice the workers affected, and they are as follows:

1.  December 16, 2006 for new hires – new hires whose visas were issued before December 16, 2006 will be allowed to be processed under the old rule on min. age (below 25), salary at US$200, exemption from TESDA NC2; agency are still allowed to collect placement fee from these workers.

2. March 1, 2007 for returning workers- returning workers who are processed on or before March 1, 2007 will be allowed to be processed under the old rules, similar to newly hired workers.

We refer to these cases as “pipeline accounts’. The only requirement under the new rules that will be applied to the new hires is the OWWA language and culture orientation. For returning workers, this is not required since they are presumed to be familiar with the language and culture of their employer.

Q.     Are there any other circumstances where these rules will be relaxed?

A.    Yes, and they are as follows:

 1. For Job orders registered with POEA before December 16, 2006 -  Workers that will be processed using these job orders are exempt from new the minimum age of 25 years and salary requirement of US$400. Workers will, however, be required to possess TESDA NC2 Certificates and attend the OWWA language and culture orientation. Agencies will no longer be allowed to collect placement fees from these workers and are given only until March 1, 2007 to process the workers covered by these job orders. 

2. Returning workers who will be processed after  March 1, 2007 -  they will be processed under the new rules requiring increase in minimum salary of US$400 but will be exempt from the requirement of NC2, OWWA orientation on language and culture and minimum age of 25. The same rules will also apply to former HSWs with finished contracts as HSWs and returning to the same region (ex. Asia or  Middle East).

3. Former HSWs transferring to an employee in a different region such as those previously employed in Middle East and will work for example in Hong Kong, or vice-versa, even if visas are issued after 16 December 2006, will be processed under the new rules requiring increase in minimum salary of US$400 but will be exempt from the requirement of NC2, and minimum age of 25. Because of the change in regional worksite, they will now be required to undergo OWWA orientation on language and culture. 

Q. What is the reason for the flexibility to former HSWs who were able to finish their contract and are being re-hired abroad?

A.  Because of their previous work experience as a household service worker, they are necessarily equipped with the right skills, language and culture and do not have to undergo certification and assessment. They are also presumed to be psychologically and emotionally matured for another overseas job as a household worker as proven by the completion of their previous contract.  Hence, the concern for possible homesickness, lack of skills to perform household work, awareness of the do’s and don’ts at the worksite do not apply to them. The prequalification of their direct employers are not, however, relaxed and will continue to be required by our POLOs.

Q.    What about workers bound for countries required by foreign employers and/or host governments to undergo specific trainings, like Israel, Taiwan and Cyprus, for visa purposes? Can they be processed without the TESDA  NC2 and OWWA certificate?

A.   Yes, we have to give due recognition to the requirements of host governments in issuing work permits to our HSWs and caregivers. For countries with specific training and orientation requirements, which host governments require before issuing visas to them, NC2 and OWWA orientation will no longer be required. 

Q.  How big is the HSW market? Where are these markets?

A.  The countries hosting the majority of our HSWs are Hong Kong, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon., Oman, Qatar, KSA, UAE, Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, Cyprus, Israel and Taiwan. Last year, we deployed a total of 282,944 household service workers which accounts for 29% of our deployed land based OFWs. Three of these countries, in terms of minimum salary will not be affected, and these are Hong Kong, Taiwan and Israel.

Q.  Are there other markets that can absorb those who will be displaced as a result of these reforms?

A. In our projection, we foresee that we will be able to maintain 40% of our current HSW market, including our vacationing HSWs. The other 60% can be shifted to other semi-skilled jobs in establishments and institutions which are related to housekeeping. Based on the 105,000 job orders registered with POEA, examples of related skills that can easily be filled in by our HSWs are  laundry worker, food attendant, baby sitter, nanny, daycare assistant, beautician, busgirl, chambermaid, cleaner, cook, dishwasher, waitress, seamstress and sewer, to name a few. The new policy reforms are intended to encourage agencies previously specializing in the deployment of HSW to diversify their markets and maximize the universal nature of their licenses which entitles them to recruit and deploy all kinds of skilled and professional workers to countries in different parts of the world.  

The support and cooperation of the licensed agencies holding these job orders can be enlisted to give priority to our displaced HSWs. Should training be required, we can tap the “Training for Work Program” of TESDA, a scholarship program offered by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo whereby qualified applicants can receive P8,500 the defray training cost.  

Q.  Since these reforms will enhance the protection and welfare of our HSW, why do we hear so much protest against their implementation?

A. We only have to know who are protesting and we will understand why. Agencies protest because they fear losing the 1 month placement fee that they used to collect from our HSWs. Some of our HSWs are also complaining because they think that we are delaying their being gainfully employed.

The POEA Governing Board realized that in the process of implementing these reforms, there are workers with visas and are ready to leave who will be affected. In order not to jeopardize their employment, we have allowed a transition period for them to be able to leave under the old rules. After the transition period, which provides sufficient time for the worker to secure the necessary training and certification and for our POLOs abroad to inform foreign employers of the new policies, then the new rules will be implemented.

Q. Will agencies and workers not resort to the escort system?

A. This problem is very critical to the success of the HSW Reform Package. Hence, we have coordinated with the Department of Justice, the Bureau of Immigration and the Manila International Airport Authority for their indispensable support and cooperation.

     In the meantime, the Inter-Agency Task Force headed by GM Cusi of MIAA has authorized the assignment of a POEA lawyer at the airport to help address this issue. POEA which heads the NALECC (National Law Enforcement Coordinating Committee) sub-committee on illegal recruitment is  tapping the support of its partner agencies at which is composed of the DOJ, DOF, DOT, DOLE, NBI, BI, PNP,  among others, to boost its anti-illegal recruitment campaign against agencies and entities evading compliance with these reforms.

The industry, on the other hand, should join hands with government to address this menace in the overseas employment program of the government. We are also warning recruitment agencies, which are said to be the number 1 client of erring immigration personnel, against using the escort system. POEA will be submitting their proposal to elevate the offense of deploying workers without POEA processing from less serious to grave offense which is punishable with cancellation of license.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) and the Association for Professionalism in Overseas Employment Inc. (ASPROE) commended the POEA GB for adopting these resolutions. CBCP has even volunteered their network of pastoral workers and chaplains abroad who can help monitor the implementation and compliance with these reform package.

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Last Update :: February 07, 2007

Since 2:00 p.m. 8/18/2005
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