Manila wants to be maids' Facebook friend

Manila wants to be maids' Facebook friend

The Philippine government is asking Filipino maids abroad to be its "friends" on Facebook, so it can better watch over their welfare.

In a memorandum issued on Feb 24, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) said domestic maids working outside the country should have a Facebook account and add the POEA and their recruiters as friends.

The POEA also made it mandatory for recruitment and placement firms to have Facebook accounts and to include in their lists of friends all domestic workers they are sending overseas.

Agencies without Facebook accounts will not be allowed to send maids abroad starting this month, POEA said.

Its administrator, Mr Hans Leo Cacdac, said the idea is for Facebook to serve as a communication platform to "ensure that the workers' interests are amply protected and their well-being and welfare are promoted".

Agencies are supposed to monitor their maids and then report cases of abuse or work-related disputes. Using Facebook is meant to make monitoring easier.

"Keeping in contact with domestic workers using Facebook is a good move," Mr Vicente Cabe, the Philippines' labour attache in Singapore, told The Straits Times yesterday.

He said: "Facebook is free, and many domestic workers use it. It will be another way to communicate with the domestic workers and for them to contact the Philippine government officials if they need help." Mr Emmanuel Geslani, a consultant for the recruitment industry in the Philippines, said using Facebook makes sense since most of the domestic workers already have accounts.

"You can see from their posts whether they are happy, sad, if they are complaining about something," he said.

"What (the POEA) wants is for the agencies to know immediately that there's a problem, so that they can react faster, not when the maids have already run away and have been at a welfare centre for two weeks," said Mr Geslani.

But he said convincing the maids to keep the government and recruiters as their Facebook friends presents a challenge.

The memorandum does not say what happens if the maids, once overseas, "unfriend" the POEA and their recruiters or deactivate their Facebook accounts.

The POEA has been pushing recruiters to come up with ways of keeping tabs on how Filipino workers, especially maids, are being treated by their employers, as abuses remain a concern.

A 2013 survey by the Mission for Migrant Workers of about 3,000 domestic maids in Hong Kong found that one in five said they had been beaten by their employers.

More than half said they had been verbally abused, and 6 per cent claimed to have been molested.

There are 1.5 million Filipino maids working abroad, about 70,000 of them in Singapore.

The Philippines is looking at bringing down the number of maids working in Singapore by 20 per cent, from about 1,000 each month. Manila is also proposing laws to cut by half the total number of Filipino maids abroad.

rdancel@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Feb 03, 2015.
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