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Newspaper article

Susan McClelland on nannies from the Philippines: Suffer the caregiver

Date

2014-01-23

Authors

Susan McClelland

Newspaper title

The National Post

Full text

Every morning, Zeny Delmando rises at six, dresses quickly and leaves her neat North Toronto apartment, its walls lined with religious portraits and framed photographs of her family. On weekdays, she heads to her job as a nanny for a seven-year-old girl, often not returning until eight in the evening. On weekends, to earn extra cash, she cleans at another employer’s house. Sunday mornings, the devout 53-year-old Christian stops off at the Saint Paschal Baylon Church for mass. What does she pray for? “That my employers are happy with me,” she replies. Anything else? “To be given health,” she adds, “because I’m the one earning money to support my husband and two daughters.”

Delmando’s family remains in the Philippines. When her husband, Nestor, a haberdasher, was laid off from his factory in the mid-90s and Zeny lost her bookkeeping job soon after, the couple struggled. It became clear that, like many of her friends and family, she would need to leave the country to find work. “It was the most difficult decision we ever made,” she says. “But we couldn’t even put food on the table. There was no other way.”

Since the 1970s, the Philippines has pursued aggressive labour-export campaigns, more so than any other country. In 2012, according to the Philippines Overseas Employment Administration, nearly 1.5-million Filipinos left the country to work abroad. That figure, however, includes only those with documented work permits. Unofficially, the figure is likely double. Experts argue these campaigns have enabled the Philippines — a country still undergoing the slow transition from an agrarian-based economy — to stay afloat. Overseas Foreign Workers (OFWs) send back about US$5-billion every year, and are so revered that when Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was president she declared OFWs national heroes.

Delmando moved to Israel in 2002, where she looked after two families (first, a widower and his children, second, an elderly couple). Then, in 2007, she applied to come to Canada as a nanny in the immigration initiative called the Live-In Caregiver Program (LCP). Canada is the first choice of many Filipino women thanks to higher-than-average salaries under the LCP, and better work conditions as compared to the Middle East, where many Filipino caregivers suffer physical and emotional harassment.

Links

Economic sectors

Occupations in services - Domestic work and Home child care providers

Content types

Statistics on work and life conditions

Target groups

Public awareness and NGOs/community groups/solidarity networks

Geographical focuses

Philippines and National relevance

Languages

English