In a survey conducted by the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME), one out of five domestic helpers in Singapore suffer from mental health problems. This means that out of the 200,000 of them, there are 40,000 afflicted with these problems.
In the same study, it was also found that almost 120,000 of them weren’t being treated well by their employers, some of which were even verbally abused. These cases are just some of the issues that affect the mental health of OFWs.
Recently, however, President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law the creation of the Office for Social Welfare Attaché, which will cover and help address the psychosocial needs of OFWs.
Also known as the Republic Act 11299, the law was signed last April 17, 2019 but was only released to the media on July 15.
The social welfare attachés (SWAs) will be deployed by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to countries with large concentrations of OFWs.
The law amends RA No. 8042, or the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995, to include provisions for protection and assistance to OFWs “especially for workers who are vulnerable to physical, emotional, and psychological stress or abuse.”
The law also requires that all SWAs must possess the minimum qualifications set by the Civil Service Commission and the preferred qualifications prescribed by the DSWD.
Moreover, the law is focused on places with a large number of OFWs so it can especially tackle workers who are faced with problems of illegal recruitment. This is why the law requires that the attachés create a databank of OFWs and their families “so that appropriate social welfare services can be more effectively provided.” SWAs will also provide OFWs with information on DSWD as well as its attached agencies that can provide them with assistance.
Since the SWAs are being brought only to countries with a big number of OFWs, it is hoped that the social welfare attachés will be available for all OFWs around the world, even in countries with a smaller number of them, as it’s necessary for the health and wellness of Filipinos living and working abroad.
As OFWs are now being provided with better access to resources that can address their psychosocial needs, this should be able to give them a better chance to adjust to living where they are, especially in times of distress.