Filipina domestic workers from Middle East ask Duterte admin for US$700 minimum wage

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Sandigan members hold their general assembly at the Redemptorist Church in Baclaran, Paranaque. (Sandigan photo)

Manila—A group of Filipino domestic workers has urged the Duterte Administration to increase the minimum allowable wage for Filipino household service workers it sends abroad to US$700 (HK$5,495) from the current US$400.

The group SANDIGAN (Samahan ng mga DH sa Gitnang Silangan) called for a $700 minimum wage due to the rising cost of living in the Philippines due to TRAIN Law and the upsurge in the prices of basic commodities in the Middle East due to the implementation of the value added tax (VAT) in many countries there.

“Due to historic high inflation rates in the Philippines and Middle Eastern countries, domestic helpers who receive slave wage rates can no longer endure the rising cost of goods and services,” said Sandigan spokesperson Pinky Alamo during the group’s assembly at Redemptorist Church in Baclaran.

“According to economic experts, a family of six needs a daily living wage of Php1,175 to survive. A $700 wage hike will draw the earnings of DHs close to the cost of family-living in the Philippines,” she added.

The group noted that the Philippine government last increased to $400 the required minimum wage of household service workers it deploys abroad way back in 2006, or 12 years ago.

Sandigan pointed out consumers in the Middle East were feeling the pinch of the inflation. According to reports, food cost in Saudi rose to 6.7 percent last month.

Turkey’s inflation hit a staggering 16 percent. In the Gulf region, Saudi and United Arab Emirates were the first to introduce VAT at 5 percent. Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait are expected to follow suit, Sandigan said.

Workers and even their employers in Saudi are now complaining about the expat dependent tax which is now impacting their savings and expenses, it added.

The group also blasted former President and now House Speaker Gloria Arroyo for her “Supermaid program,” implemented in 2006, that “pinned the wages of DHs to US$400.”

The Philippine government will not allow the deployment of a domestic worker abroad if her salary is below this amount.

But more than a decade after the Supermaid program set the minimum salary of Filipino domestic workers at US$400, Sandigan said it was high time for change.

Alamo added that the Arroyo regime at the time did not even consider inflation and the up-down movement in the exchange rates.

Sandigan also noted that domestic work is still not recognized as regular work in the Middle East which keeps household workers from experiencing the benefits regular workers have.”

“It is also about time that DHs in the Middle East be recognized as workers with rights to overtime pay and other benefits. At the same time, we also want to assert our rights to organize and to have our collective demands recognized by governments in host countries,” Alamo asserted.