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UAE's Filipino Domestic Workers Still Underpaid

On October 27, 2012

A recent article published by Emirates 24/7 indicates that a substantial number of Filipino domestic workers in the UAE currently receive less than minimum wage. Minimum wage for Filipino domestic workers is set at $400 per month but many recruitment agencies advertise positions for DH900 (approximately $250.00). The brief report features interviews with several domestic workers who explain they are sometimes forced to accept these low (and illegal) offers in order to gain experience, bolstering their resumes for future jobs. However, minimum wage by definition applies to all domestic workers, no matter their skill-set; experienced domestic workers who possess desired skills should be paid more than minimum wage. As appropriate in any occupation, experienced employees should enjoy salaries above minimum wage - they should not be forced to work towards a minimum wage. For example, if an employer expects a worker to be particularly savvy with infants or with very modern home appliances, they should expect to pay the worker competitively.

The underpayment of Filipino workers remains prevalent despite the Philippines' and the UAE's public commitments to enforce the minimum wage. Unfortunately, both entities continue to deflect responsibility for this documented contravention of the law. The Filipino government insists that recruitment agencies are responsible for ensuring domestic workers are fairly compensated and properly treated through the duration of their employment. Given the decentralized nature of the sponsorship system, governmental administrations exercise little oversight over the daily conduct of recruitment agencies and employers. However, the delegation of such authority to recruitment agencies and employers has proven deleterious time and time again. The accumulated evidence of the system's failures should precipitate governments to immediately re-appropriate accountability for migrant workers, rather than to direct blame to the institutions they have left willfully unregulated.

The UAE similarly avoids culpability for the enforcement of its own legislation. PR campaigns laud the concerted improvement of working conditions, yet the nation refuses to enforce these ostensible reforms. Migrants do not benefit from the money poured into these campaigns, nor do they benefit significantly from the reactive instances of philanthropy that similarly aim to whitewash the nation's public image. Domestic workers simply need the security of their wages and of their rights, obtainable only through the legal accountability of all relevant parties.

Unfortunately, the blithe attitude of the article's author does not convey the seriousness of these abuses. Migrant Rights previously called upon Shuchita Kapur to reevaluate her trivializing approach to migrant rights, which at times registers as tacit approval of exploitation. We once again applaud Emirates 24/7 for their sustained coverage of migrant worker issues, but encourage the publisher to reassess its presentation of such critical human rights matter.