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Asean Affairs   17 June  2011

Domestic workers get protection

By  David Swartzemtruber

AseanAffairs     17 June 2011

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In view of recent news, such as the Dominique Strauss-Kahn chambermaid incident in New York City, it is refreshing that domestic workers are getting at least some legal protection.

Asean countries such as Indonesia, Philippines and others each supply thousands of domestic workers to many countries, in and outside of Asia. In Asia, itself, Japan, Singapore and Malaysia are prime host countries for domestic workers. Many also go to countries in the Mideast, such as Saudi Arabia.

Horrors stories about the abuse of imported domestic workers frequently make the headlines. In Malaysia, for example, stories of maid abuse, unpaid wages and “slave conditions”, a new programme dubbed Helper (Hal Ehwal Pembantu Rumah) has been created to protect the well-being of Indonesian maids.

Initiated by the Saba Islamic Domestic Help Advisory (Saidha), Helper is a free program for maids to take part in.

It includes cultural training, a violence watch network and a financial system to ensure insurance protection and consistent wages.

The Philippines, which sends thousands of maids to work abroad every year, today hailed a landmark International Labour Organisation treaty giving protection to domestic workers. President Benigno Aquino's government had been one of the main proponents, foreign department spokesman Ed Malaya said

“Domestic household workers are among those most vulnerable to abuse and other risks. Having minimum standards to be observed by governments will undoubtedly lead to improvements in their situation,” Mr Malaya said.

The Geneva-based ILO passed the treaty giving protection to an estimated 52.6 million domestic workers across the world on Thursday, with the Philippines and Uruguay having already said they would ratify the accord.

The new convention would ensure domestic workers enjoyed conditions 'not less favourable' than other workers, and require governments to ensure they understood their rights, preferably through written contracts.

The document also offers domestic workers a full rest day every week, and prevents them being compelled to remain with an employer's household during their annual leave or rest days.

This is a positive step to protect workers who are taken for granted and worse in many countries.

Paul A. Ebeling, Jnr

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This year in Thailand-what next?

AseanAffairs   04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More


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