Senator Cynthia Villar called for a comprehensive review of welfare and protective mechanisms for Filipino domestic workers bound for the Middle East in light of the President’s directive to cease OFW deployment to Kuwait.

Villar, a staunch OFW advocate, noted that the rising number of women leaving to work abroad as domestic workers could lead to more abuses unless protection of their rights onsite can be enhanced.

“The DOLE’s (Department of Labor and Employment) order to suspend the deployment of our overseas workers to Kuwait is a temporary solution to a perennial problem. We need long-term solutions to encourage more of our women to look for work here at home so they can be with their families,” the veteran legislator said.

The seasoned lawmaker noted that the overseas employment program has stretched beyond forty years, and is in dire need of a comprehensive review.

“Let us have a fair and honest assessment of how the government and in particular, our embassies and consulates abroad, are coping with the increasing number of Filipinos working abroad,” the lady senator said.

“If we leave everything to market forces, then the exodus of our women as domestic workers shall continue while the number of embassy personnel that are able to protect them remain stagnant,” she added.

In Kuwait, for example, Villar noted that the number of OFWs (both new-hires and re-hires) deployed annually increased from 70,098 in 2014 to at least 109,615 in 2016.

The number of OFWs (both new-hires and re-hires) deployed to Kuwait annually increased from 70,098 in 2014 to at least 109,615 in 2016.

Yet, the number of embassy personnel catering to OFWs in Kuwait hardly increased. She also noted that out of 67,623 new-hires for Kuwait in 2016, at least 55,377 of them were contracted for domestic work.

“I am glad that the President no less gave us a wake-up call on the number of tragic incidents involving OFWs in Kuwait,” she said.

“I urge the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) and DOLE to use this opportunity to jointly look at the plight of our domestic workers overseas, not just in Kuwait, but in other countries as well, so that reforms can be achieved for their protection,” Villar mentioned.

I also hope that our economic planners can look at how more women can be absorbed into our labor force so that they no longer need to work abroad as domestic workers,” she further said.

Villar noted that overseas domestic work is fraught with risk especially when the cultural and legal environment is far different from the Philippines.

“While investigating the deaths of seven OFWs in Kuwait, the DFA and DOLE should also look into why so many of our domestic workers especially in the Middle East are being deprived of their basic rights and subjected to abuse and exploitation. Let us do everything possible to make sure that they are hired by good employers,” she concluded.


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