Saturday, July 29, 2006

Domestic Helpers

I will admit that one of the attractions of living in the Philippines is the presence of many "helpers", a euphemism for cooks, washerwomen, maids, drivers and nannies. In a feudal society, this arrangement works because in a majority of cases these employees together with their dependents are cared for from cradle to grave. They are provided with food and shelter and clothing and their children are educated so that typically within a generation these dependents become self-sufficient.

There will always be instances of abuse however. Some helpers fall prey to sexual predators, others are roughed-up for minor infractions while some are subjected to a constant stream of verbal abuse. There are also cases of low pay or no pay at all and some cruel employers withhold salaries to prevent disgruntled employees from leaving the household.

As I stated earlier, this system is supposed to work especially in a country with severe underemployment problems. People assisting other people into becoming even more productive will translate into net productive gains for the country. However we must always be conscious of potential abuse to these less-fortunate.

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