Aging Asia to need more domestic helpers

Sheila Crisostomo - The Philippine Star
Aging Asia to need more domestic helpers
Nilim Baruah, ILO Regional Migration Specialist for Asia and the Pacific, noted though that questions on whether household workers, despite their important roles, are adequately protected also remains.

MANILA, Philippines — As Asia remains “on track to become one of the oldest regions” in the world in the next few decades, the need for domestic helpers also grows rapidly, the International Labor Organization (ILO) said yesterday.

Nilim Baruah, ILO Regional Migration Specialist for Asia and the Pacific, noted though that questions on whether household workers, despite their important roles, are adequately protected also remains.

He cited the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific estimate that said the number of older persons in Asia-Pacific is expected to increase from about 548 million this year to nearly 1.3 billion by 2050. 

By then, one in four people in the region is expected to be over 60 years old. Thailand, following Japan and South Korea, is the third most rapidly aging country in Asia. 

Baruah said if this trend continues, then Thailand will join Japan, Hong Kong (China), Korea and New Zealand among societies where more than one in five people will be 65 years or older by 2031.

This demographic transition combined with an increase of women in the workforce increases the demand for home-based care and domestic work. 

 “We have seen that as societies develop and women enter the formal work force, they are less likely to perform ‘traditional’ care roles. However, rather than other family members sharing the care responsibilities, many aging societies will look to migrants to fill the domestic work gap,” Baruah said.

He added that Singapore is “illustrative of this trend, where, already in 2012, a national survey found that among persons aged 75 and over, 50 percent were dependent on migrant care workers, including domestic workers, for their daily care.”

The ILO statement, issued in line with the celebration of Domestic Workers’ Day today, showed that this work is also one of the lowest-paid jobs and, at the same time, with long and unpredictable working hours.

It is estimated that around 67 million people work as domestic workers around the world and 10 million of them work in Southeast Asia and the Pacific. 

The growing demand for domestic services is considered to be one of the main triggers of the feminization of labor migration. Domestic workers make up nearly 20 percent of all migrant workers in the ASEAN region. Of that number, at least 83 percent are women.

Baruah said domestic workers make a “critical contribution to families, societies and economies across the world” and underscored that migrant domestic workers are “disproportionately exposed to abuse compared to other workers due to gaps in national labor and employment legislation, the relative isolation of their work place and a high degree of informality.”

“Furthermore, just as care work is seen as women’s work, there is also a certain tolerance for exploitation and abuse towards women domestic workers in patriarchal societies,” he added.

An ILO statement also said that in most ASEAN member states, labor laws do not apply fully to domestic workers thus leaving them without the protection – such as social security, minimum wage and regulation of working hours – that are provided to other types of workers.

“Exclusion from legal protection also increases the risk of labor exploitation and violence without recourse to access to justice,” the statement also said.

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