Case Study Of Filipino Workers In Dubai
The Philippines is 4,300 miles from Dubai. National Geographic reports that due to poverty the Philippines has become dependent on Filipinos who leave the country in order to find work elsewhere. Those who leave are called Overseas Filipino workers, or OFW's. The title OFW is accompanied by praise for the heroic sacrifice to nation and family. The airport in Manila even has a center for Overseas Filipino Workers where public agencies tend to their needs along side of the Philippines Overseas Employment administration and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration. According to the Positively Filipino Magazine website as of 2013 there were 450,000 Filipinos residing in Dubai, they make up 21.3 percent of the population. Filipinos are employed in construction, cargo shipping, design, energy, information technology, marketing, medical, telecommunications, tourism, and the domestic sector to name a few. In 2007 alone Filipinos in Dubai sent more than $500 million in remittances to the Philippines.
Nearly half of all OFW's who reside in Dubai are Filipinas. Filipinas in Dubai are highly sought out to work as caretakers. This happens because Filipinas are viewed as people with "good English...and reputation for kindness and reliability." Even though, Filipina workers are in high demand in Dubai they are highly susceptible to labor abusive. Often the employers of women domestic workers confiscate their cell phones to make them more attentive to their job, and more dependent on the employer. Emirates 24/7 a media outlet in Dubai claims that the basic minimum salary for domestic workers is set at $400 and it is mandatory. However, this mandatory salary is often ignored by the employers.
Filipinos in Dubai are faced with the harsh reality of having their rights violated. One of the most common practices of human rights violations is having employers retain the passports of the workers during the employment contract. This is done to prevent the workers from seeking other jobs and from having them leave immediately after the end of their contract. Although, it is illegal for employers to hold the workers passport this practice is extremely common. Many workers opt for running away from their employers in order to escape labor exploitation. Although, it is considered a crime to run away from an employer in the UAE running is the only option many workers have to escape labor abusive. The retrieval of the passport by runaway workers is a difficult process because often times the employer will demand payment as a precondition for the release of the passport. Another human right violation that OFW's experience upon arriving in Dubai is wage theft. Many of the workers are often made to sign employment contracts in English or Arabic. These contracts include clauses that state that they will be paid less than it had originally been agreed. Filipinos in Dubai are paid less than other nationalities. Other violations include delayed payment of wages, premature termination of services, and excessive working hours.
Human Rights Watch report for 2011 states that many female domestic workers in the UAE suffer labor violations such as "unpaid wages, food deprivation, long working hours, forced confinement, and physical or sexual abuse." Shelters in Abu Dhabi and Dubai in October of 2010 housed more than 300 runaway Filipina domestic workers.
Due to the large number of Filipinos in Dubai it is relatively easy for them to socialize with one another. The report by National Geographic states that many of the Filipino residents in Dubai are married back home, but have extramarital relationships with other Filipinos living in Dubai. Many Filipinos opt for marrying the person they found in Dubai, and seek to be granted divorce by the Philippine authorities. However, divorce in the Philippines is illegal. Thus, they turn to the Catholic church in Dubai to annul their marriages. Fr. Tom who is a priest for St. Mary's church in Dubai calls the request for annulments a "factory line."There are many websites such as Dubai OFW and the Pinoy Career Center that are designed to help Filipinos navigate through life in Dubai. Dubai OFW showcases restaurants, shops, events, places to go on adventures, tips, and daily life blogs. Perhaps the most interesting part of this website is the "work" section. At first glance this section it appears to be a place where Filipinos can find employment opportunities. But in reality this section of the website is dedicated to blogs that help workers navigate through labor exploitation in Dubai. For instance the article "Is it right to have the employer keep the passport of their employees?" seeks to inform workers on what to do and who to contact if their employer is asking to hold their passport. Pinoy Career Center on the other hand is directed towards how to conduct business, and to develop a career in many parts of the world. The website has a section dedicated to teaching Filipinos how to work and live in Dubai. In this section one will find the reasons to come to Dubai, how to apply for a work permit, job opportunities, working and living in Dubai, what to do, and what not to do in Dubai. Within the working and living in Dubai list is a listing of the diseases that prevent people from applying for work permits. These diseases include HIV, tuberculosis, hypertension, diabetes, psychiatric disease, and even physical disabilities. Things such as applying sunscreen and not making fun of the Muslim religion are found on the what to do list. On the what not to do list are things such as no public display of affection, no cursing, and no taking pictures of government properties, locals, or women without proper permission. The Pinoy Center is directed towards attracting Filipino workers to Dubai, they do not recognize labor exploitation and what to do if it occurs. The website is designed to train Filipino workers to comply with the laws of the UAE even if they are unjust.
Even though, Filipinos make up 21.3% of the population of in Dubai they are among one of the most invisible groups and exploited groups of people in the city. Filipinos live in Dubai simply because they want to provide for their families back home. They negotiate a space to exist within a country that trips them of their basic human rights.
By: Thania Lucero
|Previous page on path||The Other Face Of Dubai: The Workers, page 1 of 2||Next page on path|