The ‘kasambahay’ deserves more | Inquirer Opinion

The ‘kasambahay’ deserves more

/ 05:15 AM June 25, 2022

They are privy even to the darkest secrets of the families they serve. Indeed, many are entrusted with the care and well-being of the people who depend on them most, including the youngest children and the oldest, frailest seniors. They carry out the most basic, menial tasks of a household, some are on call for practically 24 hours, while many others are maltreated or manhandled, without the usual protections given to workers elsewhere.

They are our domestic workers who, almost a decade ago, were “baptized” in law with a term that describes both the scope of their responsibilities and the relationship they have (or should have) with their employers. “Kasambahay” is a term meant to convey where they work—the home or “bahay”—and their status in the family—a “kasama” or companion. It can also be taken to mean a comrade, a coworker, or even a member of the family.


In 2013, the late President Benigno Aquino III signed Republic Act No. 10361 meant “to protect the rights of domestic workers against abuse, harassment, violence, economic exploitation and performance of work that is hazardous to their physical and mental health.” The kasambahay law is meant to protect domestic workers, recognize their special needs, ensure safe and healthful working conditions, and promote gender-sensitive measures (most kasambahay are female), “in the formulation and implementation of policies and programs affecting” domestic work.


The Philippine Statistics Authority says that, currently, there are 1,864,065 private household workers nationwide who carry out a wide variety of chores inside the home (and sometimes even outside it). These include laundry duties, child care and elderly care, preparing meals, keeping a home tidy and sanitized, and everything else needed to keep the household running smoothly and efficiently. Some are poorer relatives or townmates who come to the city for room and board, and to avail themselves of an education. Others are recruited from poor provincial towns, leaving their families to earn money with which to support their parents and siblings, and in search of a better life. In unfortunate circumstances, some are lured with promises of lucrative jobs that turn out to be exploitative and dangerous.

The latest news about our kasambahay is that, starting June 4, the minimum wage of household workers in Metro Manila will increase by P33 a day, bringing their monthly wage to a total of P6,000 monthly, up from the previous P5,000. Reports say about 200,000 domestic workers in the National Capital Region are expected to benefit from this wage increase, while the hoped-for higher wages of workers from other areas depend on the decisions of their regional wage boards.

But even outgoing Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III sees the P1,000 increase as still insufficient, given the higher prices of fuel and consumer goods in the last few months. Indeed, economic difficulties faced by many families these days might lead some to let go of their kasambahay altogether.

Yet another hurdle that household workers face despite the increase in wages is their lack of recognition and, thus, legal standing. As a result, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has asked local government units to comply with the provision in the kasambahay law requiring them to carry out the registration of all domestic workers in their jurisdiction. The task facing the DILG and local executives is to institute a registration system for kasambahays to ensure the employers’ compliance with laws meant to protect their household workers’ fundamental rights as members of the labor force. In a previous attempt, said DILG Secretary Eduardo Año, a mere 8 percent of all the 42,046 barangays nationwide had a registry of kasambahays. The low figure, said Año, is indicative of noncompliance with the provisions of the law.

Perhaps if kasambahays enjoyed a higher status in social and legal circles, they would enjoy greater protection of their rights according to the law and morals. Ignoring the rights of domestic workers seems easy because of how isolated they have become from the rest of society, and their low status in the eyes of many. How ironic that the same people whom the more privileged sector depend on for their health, their welfare, and ease of living can’t seem to enjoy the same level of respect and humane treatment that is owed to all citizens.

Government and society should give more for our kasambahays—recognition and proper wages—for their untold sacrifices. For as the late beloved President Ramon Magsaysay once declared: “Those who have less in life should have more in law.”

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TAGS: Batas Kasambahay, fair wage, Kasambahay

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