Domestic workers release report on migration, work and living conditions

OVER 130 Filipino domestic workers in New York last Saturday, October 23, celebrated the launch of the much-anticipated report on the migration, work and living conditions of Filipino domestic workers in the New York and New Jersey area, entitled Doing the Work that Makes All Work Possible.

The report adds to an existing body of knowledge on the domestic work industry in the US.  It also creates new data on the specific population of Filipino women working in the industry, the impact of their migration on themselves and their families, and the harsh conditions of working in the US domestic work industry with little to no labor protections and standards.

The report narrative, based on data gathered by DAMAYAN Migrant Workers Association from 208 surveys, 5 focus group discussions and 28 in-depth interviews, likewise revealed the capability of grassroots, community-based organizations to generate hard data and analysis on otherwise hard-to-reach populations of immigrant workers.    The data was gathered with the assistance of Urban Justice Center, and the report was written with the assistance of Ninotchka Rosca.

Last Saturday’s report launch included presentations of the research findings with testimonies by domestic worker leaders of DAMAYAN.  Juana Dwyer, chairperson of the Board, testified.  “Just recently, I computed the money that I sent to my family over the years.  I estimated that I was sending $1200 a month plus one balikbayan (“cargo”) box every month for seven years.  That’s a total of more than $100,000 and 84 balikbayan boxes!  This was 75 percent of my income.  I realized that I am one of the millions of overseas Filipinos who hold up the Philippine economy.”

“The research narrative aims to provide a framework for the issues and problems of the domestic work industry. We want to look at the impact of neo liberalization on women from so-called developing countries, who are migrating to receiving countries where they could find work.  We zoomed in on the social cost of their migration, both on the women who are mostly mothers, and the children they were forced to leave,” says Linda Oalican, Board member and founder.

The report dispels the myth that the remittances of Filipino overseas workers, mostly exploited domestic workers, are the solution to the development of the Philippine economy.  It includes policy recommendations for both the US and Philippine governments for protecting and ensuring labor standards and basic human rights for this population.

“There is an urgency in fighting for fair labor standards, rights, recognition and justice for domestic workers in the US,” says Oalican.  “In the longer term, we should also address and challenge the very reason why these women domestic workers come to the US, and look at both Philippine and the US-based policies that create the industry’s problems.”

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