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CMA publishes study on Bilateral Labor Agreements

The Center for Migrant Advocacy (CMA) is pleased to share with everyone the results of its study on the Bilateral Labor Agreements between the Philippines and Jordan, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and Lebanon.

The study is part of a three-year project, Strengthening Capacities of Migrant Domestic Workers and their Families. This project is supported by a German foundation, AWO International.

This paper takes a look at the formulation, content, and the implementation of three Bilateral Labor Agreements (BLAs) between the Philippines and three countries of destination: Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Lebanon. Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Lebanon all have a long history of employing migrant workers from the Philippines. Particularly during the peak of the oil industry in the Middle East region in the 1970s. Until now, these countries continue to be a top destination for migrant workers–especially migrant domestic workers from the Philippines. These labor agreements shall be assessed in how responsive they are to women migrant domestic workers’ issues and concerns, and how effective they are in actually addressing the issues and concerns they seek to resolve.

This paper analyzed the development, content/text, and the implementation of the BLAs of the Philippines with Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Lebanon using the “Assessment Guide for Bilateral Agreements and Memoranda for Understanding on Labor Migration” of the International Labor Organization. The BLA process of the Philippines start at the level of the BLA Committee as mandated by the DOLE Administrative Order 246. The different migration related agencies in the Philippines collaborate and coordinate regarding the establishment of a BLA. The development phase, however, lacks a mechanism for systematic needs-assessment for BLAs and consultations for migrant workers despite regarding consultations as process imperative. The content of the BLAs reflect several provisions that aim to protect the rights of migrant domestic workers however, most are vague and broad provisions. Provisions regarding reintegration and repatriation costs, gender-responses, equal protection and non-discrimination, and right to freedom of association are not reflected in the BLA texts. The Philippine government currently have no mechanism for programmatic monitoring and evaluation of BLA implementation. The parties of the BLAs still conduct and follow-through the meetings of Joint Committees to discuss the contents of the BLAs. There is lack of sufficient evidence, however, to infer the effectivity of BLAs in terms of improving the situation of migrant domestic workers in the said countries.

The paper then suggests the following courses of action:

  • Institutionalize focused consultations with stakeholders locally and abroad
  • Conduct awareness campaigns on BLAs of the Philippines with other countries
  • Prioritize needs-assessment and monitoring/evaluation of current BLAs
  • Systematize monitoring and evaluation of the impact of BLAs
  • Involve CSOs, and other stakeholders in the monitoring and evaluation of BLAs
  • Incorporate principles of equal treatment, decent work, and gender-responsiveness in BLAS
  • Further study on the reception and implementation of BLAs in countries of destination