Follow Singapore’s mandatory day off for foreign domestic workers, OFW group urges migrant-host governments in the Middle East

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Mar 6 2012

A Filipino migrants’ rights group in the Middle East today said the recent granting of mandatory day off for foreign domestic workers (FDWs) by Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower (MOM) poses a real challenge to middle-eastern governments hosting about 25-M domestic workers mostly from Asian countries like the Philippines, Indonesia, and India.

“We welcome Singapore government policy shift, through its Ministry of Manpower, in granting mandatory day off for foreign domestic workers, including our 65,000 Filipino domestic workers. It certainly geared towards humanization of domestic labor and recognition that domestic works is real work,” said Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona.

Monterona added that Singapore’s granting of mandatory day off poses a “‘litmus’ test to middle-eastern governments hosting millions of FDWs.”

He cited, for instance, most of the Gulf Cooperating Council (GCC) member-countries have reservations in recognizing domestic workers’ alienable rights as a worker and a human being citing ‘customary practices and traditions’.

“Kuwait for example opposes the granting of day-off and the internationally prescribed 8-hour work of domestic workers,” Monterona added.

On June 9, 2011, an official of Kuwait’s social affairs ministry had been quoted by Al-Qabas newspaper saying the granting of day-off and specific working hours to domestic workers “does not suit the habits, traditions and public ethics of Kuwait”. The Kuwaiti official added a maid during her day-off going to a place unknown to her sponsor is considered an offense to Kuwait’s public ethics.

“It has been known that other GCC countries and non-GCC governments also cited ‘preserving tradition and modesty of maids’ as reasons to restrict domestic workers freedom of movement and giving them day-off, among others,” Monterona noted.

Monterona said the rights of domestic workers should not be viewed as a ‘threat to host-countries tradition and customary laws.” “This could be harmonized by passing local laws that guarantees domestic workers rights while respecting the habits and traditions of the host country,” the Filipino migrant leader added.

“The slave-like view about domestic workers in the Middle East must be changed, first and foremost. This is what the ILO Convention on Domestic Workers had told the host governments including that in the Mid-east that domestic workers have rights too, rights that governments must recognize, guarantee and protect,” Monterona added.

“The passage of local legislation or policy recognizing domestic workers’ rights and welfare in the national level by the mid-east host governments must follow suit,” Monterona ended.

Contributed to MR by John Leonard Monterona

Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator

Advancing the rights of migrant workers throughout the Middle East