Following a row in 2013 over minimum wage requirements for domestic workers, Qatar now appears to be relying more than ever on the Philippines to meet rising demand for household help.
Over the past two years, the Philippine Overseas Labour Office (Polo) has seen the number of employment contracts processed in Qatar increase six-fold, from nearly 4,000 a year to 24,000 annually, according to a labor official.
Speaking to the Gulf Times this week, Philippine labor attaché Leopoldo De Jesus suggested that most of these contracts went to domestic workers.
According to the newspaper, he added that the country “also benefitted from the earlier decision of Indonesia and other South Asian countries such as Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to stop sending domestic helpers to the Middle East.”
In Qatar, domestic workers are vulnerable in part because they are not protected under the country’s Labor Law.
Despite much debate on introducing a unified domestic workers’ contract, there is currently no legal restriction on the maximum number of days a week or hours each day they can work.
Concerns about the treatment of these workers has caused several countries in recent years to prohibit its nationals from working in Qatar and other Gulf nations.
In May for example, the Indonesian government announced plans to ban its nationals from working as domestic help in Qatar and 20 other countries in the Middle East.
The move came two years after Indonesia temporarily banned its citizens from working in Qatar as domestic workers, saying it could not afford to assist the three to five women who were seeking shelter at the embassy daily who were fleeing abusive work environments.
Other countries such as the Philippines attempted to get Gulf countries to agree to enforce a domestic worker contract that would pay its nationals US$400 (QR1,457) a month.
But that request in 2013 resulted in a swift decline in the number of Filipinas working as household help in Qatar, following an unofficial ban on approving their visas.
Speaking to Doha News last year, then-ambassador Crescente Relacion said:
“There was a drastic reduction in the number of Filipina domestic workers. (The) Qatar (market), in effect, did not accept the $400 minimum wage.”
However, according to De Jesus, those restrictions have since been lifted and more sponsors are now complying with the salary requirement.
He added that he expected demand for Filipino domestic workers to continue to increase in the coming year.
More skilled nationals from the country are also expected to be hired in Qatar to fill positions in the hospitality, construction and healthcare sectors, he said.