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We Want Decent Work Now

Austerity Measures in Greece; Uprising in Syria; Nitaqat, the Saudization or nationalization of jobs in Saudi Arabia; Emiratization; Omanization; Singaporeans First.

Wherever it is in the world, there are Filipinos and other migrant workers who will be adversely affected by the political unrest and shrinking economy of destination countries. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) composed of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman have been trying for many years to solve the massive unemployment in each member state. They train their own nationals and provide incentives to private sector employers who are compliant to the government’s policy of hiring their citizens first. This will affect hundreds of foreign workers from the top labor suppliers to the Middle East, namely: Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Philippines and Sri Lanka

Statistics from the Commission on Filipino Overseas (CFO, 2009) revealed that the estimated number of Filipino temporary workers in Greece is 45,560; Syria with 13,309; United Arab Emirates with 576,002; Oman, 35,900. The highest percentage is in Saudi Arabia with more than 1.138 million Filipino workers. They are workers with families back in the Philippines who depend on them for survival in a country whose economy is buoyed by the remittances of overseas workers.

With Nitaqat, hundreds of Filipino men who have worked in the Kingdom for more than six years have contracts that won’t be renewed. Those who are working in companies belonging to red and yellow zones should be able to transfer to a compliant employer before their contracts expire otherwise they have to face repatriation. Red and yellow zones are companies that employ less Saudi nationals than what is required by Niqata. The question is: Are we ready to welcome them home with good paying jobs awaiting them? Are there national industries and investments in infrastructure that can make good use of the expertise acquired by the overseas Filipinos workers in the construction, engineering and energy sectors?

Without secure jobs, Filipinos in Greece hesitate to come home despite the impending austerity measures that will likely result in lay-offs and pay cuts which eventually reduce remittances to the Philippines. Are there programs that will assist the reintegration of thousands of migrant workers in the Philippine labor market? Does the government have the capacity to prepare and support the repatriates for self-employment and entrepreneurship?

The Nitaqat system exempts household based employers and government –run institutions. With more men out of work, more women will troop to the Middle East to take care of the homes and children of Saudis who are enjoying better employment opportunities as a result of Saudization. Are the governments of the Philippines and Saudi Arabia serious and sincere in ensuring that employers are faithful to the terms of the contract and will treat the household workers with dignity and respect?

The employment situation in the Philippines is unique. There are more unemployed males (63%) than females (37%). The Bureau of Labor and Employment Statistics (BLES,2011) showed that househusbands are more common in the Philippines  with unemployed men leading housewives by over 700,000. This has been the trend for the past three years, according to BLES data. The International Labour Organization (ILO) noted these figures reflect a departure from statistics in the rest of Southeast Asia.
With the shrinking labor markets in the Middle East and the lack of opportunities for wage and salary work in the home country, the number of unemployed Filipino males will likely increase. Are there programs in place that will train men to become efficient home managers and effective parents as well as provide psychosocial support to the increasing number of men in their emerging roles as house husbands? Without these programs, men might vent their frustrations to women through physical, verbal and financial abuse and aggravate the latter's multiple burden.

Women breadwinners in the Philippines are mostly engaged in vulnerable employment and low productivity jobs. Is the government ready to provide social protection, financial and technical assistance that will improve the efficiency and productivity of increasing number of women in the informal sector?

We want decent work for everyone; for both women and men; the youth and adults and the differently - abled. In cities and rural areas; in our own native land; near our homes and families. Work that earns us sufficient income to nourish ourselves, send our children to school and live a life of dignity. Work that treats us fairly and keeps us safe. Work that acknowledges the best in each of us. Work that helps eradicate poverty and promote peace everywhere. Work that uplifts us- mind, body and spirit.

We want decent work. Now.

The only jobs for which no man is qualified are human incubators and wet nurse.  Likewise, the only job for which no woman is or can be qualified is sperm donor.  ~Wilma Scott Heide

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future a program of World Pulse that provides rigorous new media and citizen journalism training for grassroots women leaders. World Pulse lifts and unites the voices of women from some of the most unheard regions of the world.


usha kc's picture

This issue is very timely and

This issue is very timely and powerfull. You have presented so beautifully dear sista.
degrading situation arround the world has been making thousands of worker's life worst and hopeless. Very serious topic.

thank you for it.

Paulina Lawsin's picture

Thanks sister. Your positive

Thanks sister. Your positive comments add to my confidence.There are a lot of tragic stories of migrant workers. I wish I can contribute to the solutions.


Juliette Maughan's picture

Decent Work

Hi Pauline,

It is not so much comforting but interesting to know that we all share the same challenges. This is a global problem you speak of.

With regards to Decent Work? What policies does the Philippines current have that encourages decent work? How is the government currently engaging those in the diaspora to take part in the economic development of the country, even though they do not reside there?

What are the major industries in your country right now and are there any plans to diversify the economy? If so what area(s)? Has a study been done on the diaspora to identify what types of jobs they hold abroad and what can be 'brought back" to benefit the shaping of the country?

How about richer nationals living abroad how do they contribute beyond remittences?

I will leave the questions there. It is very interesting to know these things.



Paulina Lawsin's picture

Very good questions Juliette.

Very good questions Juliette. Thanks for posing them. The answers will be the subject of another article and more. Oh, my, I have worked on violence against women for many years. Does this means that am into migration now? Will have to start the research now.

Keep on asking Juliette.

Huggs from one of the 7,100 islands of the Philippines,


Stella Paul's picture

And there you are!

And here she comes, a little late but with so much clarity! My dad was posted in Dubai for several years and had several people employed in his office who were from Philippines. Guess who was the most skilled of them all? Mercy - the woman who cooked for him! She wasn't only a good cook, but an excellent account keeper, news gatherer (she would even know everything about the food being imported and their trade routes etc) and an excellent care giver. This would be a woman to make a great contribution to the society back home; she had the potential to be a grass root leader. But now she was just earning enough to take care of her family, for her other qualities had no takers. Yet she can't go back because there's not enough money for her back home to make a decent living.

This is a new issue I often keep wondering about: how, migration affects a country in its nation building process? I would love to hear some of your thoughts on that.

Love and hugs!

Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

Paulina Lawsin's picture

Yes, Stella, there are a lot

Yes, Stella, there are a lot of Mercys out there who have left the comfort of her home to eke out a living in places far away from their loved ones. A lot of them are teachers and college graduates. They get deskilled when they go out of the country and get stuck in their new roles. There's brain drain, separation and even breaking of families. , vulnerability of the workers to abuse and a lot of other problems. THe answer to your questions will be the subject of a new article.

Thanks for dropping by. Have a great day.

Stella Paul's picture

I would love that

Dear Paulina

I would love to read that article when you write it! Thousands and thousands of Indians are also in the middle east (besides several other countries), and so you are not alone in this situation. We are with you, almost in the same boat of deprivation or forced migration :(

Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

Rachael Maddock-Hughes's picture

Great Article!

A very powerful and timely subject to be writing about Paulina! You make a very good argument and the op-ed reads smoothly, and passionately, all the way through! You briefly brought up a good point which would be great to elaborate on--the fact that household based employment in Saudi Arabia is not part of the latest nationalization of the workforce. Do you think this will push more women into this sector? If so, are there concerns about their safety in these positions? Do you think this might increase the abuse of women?
And, can you speak to any solutions that are being created by the government to address this issue?

Keep up the great work!


"In every human heart there are a few passions that last a lifetime. They're with us from the moment we're born, and nothing can dilute their intensity." Rob Brezny

Paulina Lawsin's picture

Looking at the plight of

Looking at the plight of women household based workers in Saudi Arabia and government's response to address or prevent abuses is a good angle to pursue. Thanks for giving me ideas on what to write next. And thank you more for the encouraging comments.

Have a wonderful weekend, Rachael.


ikirimat's picture

Decent work now

Than you so much for highlighting the issues of decent work. I like the way you bring out issues and the plight of women. In Uganda too issues of decent especially among women is something that needs to be attended to NOW. I hope this OpEd piece finds attention with the relevant authorities

Grace Ikirimat

"It takes the hammer of persistence to drive the nail of success."

ikirimat's picture

Decent work now

Than you so much for highlighting the issues of decent work. I like the way you bring out issues and the plight of women. In Uganda too issues of decent especially among women is something that needs to be attended to NOW. I hope this OpEd piece finds attention with the relevant authorities

Grace Ikirimat

"It takes the hammer of persistence to drive the nail of success."

Paulina Lawsin's picture

Yes, Ikirimat. I hope the

Yes, Ikirimat. I hope the provision of decent work should be given priority by the authorities. Thanks for the helpful comment sistah!

Hugggs from one of the 7,100 islands of the Philippines,


MaDube's picture

Dear Paulina

Not only is your article timely but it speaks to one of the issues that is rarely ever paid much attention to, well done for flagging the issue. Your country has a similar situation to ours where unemployment is high at home, government fails to create employment for its own citizens and migration for economic reasons is particularly high among other African countries. Yet out there the conditions are harsh and the Global Economic strife has seen some of the people losing their jobs as well. Indeed the answer lies in the provision of alternative employment by government but it may also lie in the government giving women the means to create their own employment. Allocation of resources. Availability of space to venture into businesses. Creating a user-friendly environment where women can compete with men on a equal basis. Unfortunately our governments do neither and women continue to suffer the brunt of this negligence. It is a really sad affair. But women like you continue to fight and someday we shall succeed.



Paulina Lawsin's picture

Right, Ma Dube , we shall

Right, Ma Dube , we shall succeed. That is if we can multiply our voices in demanding from our respective governments to create the environment for women economic empowerment in the home country so that they don;t have to migrate and leave their families behind. There's a lot to write about labor migration issue so good luck to us.

Huggs from the Philippines,

Greengirl's picture

Dear Paulina

I have followed your submissions and come to a conclusion that you are passionate about the prevailing employment situation in the Philippines; as well as the plight of Filipinos working abroad. The facts and figures you include makes a whole lot of sense and difference. It gives a clear cut picture of what you are saying. You are indeed using your unique writing skills and voice to propagate a worthy cause. I have no doubt that you are being heard.

You are a noble winner!

Olanike Olugboji

Paulina Lawsin's picture

THanks for the encouraging

THanks for the encouraging comments Olanike. VOF provided me the venue to learn and write about matters close to my heart. I still have to make use of the other social media tools that were taught to us so I can amplify my voice. Have to write more and better.

Hugs from the Philippines,

As always, wonderful Paulina, you express so clearly and lovingly a situation which cannot help but surprise those of us who do not live it. How I wish we could help, I could help , in righting the situation for decent work. I am so proud to know you and be your friend as you fight for the rights of women . Best and warmest admiration to you.

Paulina Lawsin's picture

Thanks Marta. Yes, we can

Thanks Marta. Yes, we can help maybe not directly but through others. You are helping me to refine my skills and enhance my confidence to be able to train women leaders and migrant workers. Miss you.

Huggs from the Philippines.

carol adams's picture

powerful questions

Dear Paulina,
You provide a clear picture of how a solution in one country has such a profoundly devastating impact on another. Your article shows how complex and gender-based solutions become. I love how you use questioning as a technique for influencing change.

I hold you and your county in my heart AND acknowledge you for your courage, clarity and passion for an important cause.

Carol Adams

Paulina Lawsin's picture

Thanks Carol. We live in an

Thanks Carol. We live in an interconnected , globalized world that any change in one country can affect the others.

Welcome to my community.


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