05/10/2018, 19.18
CHINA – PHILIPPINES
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Beijing and Manila close to deal to let up to 500,000 Filipino workers in China

It is unclear whether the agreement to allow 300,000 Filipinos is limited to domestic workers or includes other jobs. At present, some 200,0000 Filipinos work in China’s underground economy. It is unclear whether they’d benefit from an amnesty. Two years ago, the first Filipino domestic workers appeared in a number of Chinese cities. Rights groups are concerned about their rights.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – China and the Philippines are close to an agreement that could double to 500,000 the number of Filipinos working in China.

The landmark agreement would grant legal employment status to 300,000 Philippine nationals, said William J Lima, Manila’s special envoy to China, and it is expected to be signed by the end of this year,

Appointed by Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte to deal with Beijing on a range of key economic and trade issues, Mr Lima estimated that “around 200,000” Filipinos were already working illegally in China, most of them domestic workers. 

“With the 300,000 we expect to be permitted to work legally in mainland China under the deal, added to the 200,000 black market workers we estimate are already working there, that would make the total number close to half a million,” he said.

However, he did not explain whether the deal to create 300,000 legal positions was limited to domestic workers or extended to other types of employment, nor did he say if unauthorised Filipino workers in China would be granted amnesty.

For now, some small issues remain to be ironed out, like the differences in employment-related health service provisions available in China and the Philippines.

Speaking about the issue last month, Filipino Labour and Employment Secretary Silvestre Bello said that China needed Filipino cooks, carers, domestic workers, musicians and nurses.

In fact, right after Chinese President Xi Jinping met his Filipino counterpart Duterte in Hainan province at the Boao Forum last month, senior Chinese and Philippine officials inked a memorandum of understanding on the employment of Filipinos to teach English in China.

China’s Foreign Ministry said that both sides were agreed upon in the memorandum but did not say if Filipinos can work in other areas.

Unlike Hong Kong, whose doors are open to foreign domestic workers from the Philippines, Indonesia and other countries of Southeast Asia, mainland China has always adopted a different policy. Only two years ago did some of them start to arrive in mainland cities.

Eman Villanueva, spokesman for the Asian Migrants’ Coordinating Body, warned that Filipino domestic workers may leave Hong Kong for teaching jobs on the mainland because many of them were teachers in the Philippines before coming to the city. In mainland China, they would be paid $ 1,500 US per month.

What is more, the monthly minimum wage for domestic workers in Hong Kong is HK,410 (US$ 560). Employment agency bosses have said unauthorised maids in the mainland are paid 6,000 to 7,000 yuan (US0 to US,100) a month.

Allan Bell, chairman of the concern group Hong Kong Domestic Workers Roundtable, said Filipinos keen to work on the mainland needed to be careful about “bogus contracts”– where they are promised a teacher’s job, but end up with another, lower-paid, job.

“Foreign domestic workers are facing issues in getting fair treatment in Hong Kong even with a robust legal system and professional law enforcement. The situation in China may be very different,” he said. 

Currently, some 10 million Filipinos work abroad. Through their remittances, they contribute to the country’s economic development.

In the past, their revenues also saved the Philippines from financial crisis and remain a cornerstone of the national economy.

According to the Philippines’ central bank, Filipinos abroad sent home at least 1,400 billion pesos (US$ 2.6 billion) between January and November last year.

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