Question & Answer
PROTECTION AND WELFARE ENHANCEMENT
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
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?
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?
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
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.
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
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
there actual cases and experiences in managing the migration of
HSWs that compelled to the POEA Governing Board to pass the
package of reforms?
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?
These measures took effect last December 16, 2006 for newly
hired workers and March 1, 2007 for returning workers.
Q. Who are
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
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.
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
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
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.
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?
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.
there other markets that can absorb those who will be displaced
as a result of these reforms?
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
Since these reforms will enhance the protection and welfare of
our HSW, why do we hear so much protest against their
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
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
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
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