Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Life of Filipino Domestic Workers in Russia

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Meteor Stadium in Western Moscow can also be said as the prime hotspot stress-relief place of South East Asians.

Hundreds of overseas workers spend their rest days here to unwind. In the summer, they come here every week to witness and participate in the Sports Tournament.

You wouldn’t see any difficulties behind their smiles and laughter as they enjoy the day. But behind their happiness lies their inner struggles.

On their recent arrival, only knowing English and Filipino, they often find it difficult to converse with the local population. Most of the seasoned and experienced workers advise to the newbies to address their questions to the younger generations, they are educated and more open-minded. The older generations are often racist, but not all.

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Another difficulty is the geography; many recent arrivals often find themselves lost in the neighborhood.

Russian economy boomed 15 years ago and with it the need for working staff and manpower. This is where the economic migration of Filipinos started. As of 2013, there are more than 4000 Filipino nationals working in Russia, but locals estimate about 8000 all in all including unregistered migrants in hiding.

While most Filipinos working overseas have the educational background and training to be professionals, most of them work in the household service sector as maids, domestic helpers, chefs, chauffeurs and drivers and caregivers and nannies.

The main reason why the career change is the money earned. The average salary of a professional in the Philippines is just a third of the average salary earned by a domestic helper in Russia.

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Filipinos send part of their salary to the Philippines, some half and others almost all. As of 2013 total money wired through Western Union amounts up to $18 million. Last year’s records have dwindled to $17 million due to crisis. Still the amount the Filipinos are earning in Russia are not small joke even after the effect of the crisis, some even earning up to almost $1500 in a month cleaning 10 households.

Traditionally, most Filipino workers are hired by expats but nowadays it is common for a Russian nationals to employ Filipinos instead of hiring migrants from other Soviet countries whom they share a language.

Filipinos are mostly in demand because they have a reputation of working harder than local staff and have the advantage of knowledge of English which the Russian children could pick up. Another is also because of the language barrier; an agency included in their site the pros of having no knowledge of Russian which gives employers freedom to talk freely without the fear of others learning their skeletons in the closet. It also includes the fact that Filipinos can cook exotic dishes and always look clean.

All Asian migrant workers are probed for their travel documents and Filipinos are no exception. Police would also demand money for alleged violation forcing workers to fork over cash even when their documents are legal and clean. Recent arrivals fearing for their jobs would comply readily while those who are far more experience would often pretend they don’t understand or refuse outright. Many of the workers feel like their rights are being violated but cannot do anything about it but most affected are those who are in Russia illegally.

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Serious cases involving Filipinos are rare because the population of Filipino workers is still at a maximum.

Filipino communities in Russia are also close-knit and compact compared to those in UK or Middle East because of the small size and the difficulty of integration to the local community.

In Russia, everything is institutionalized, squeaky clean of emotion.

Photo credit: Moscow Times / Eva Hartog

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