MANILA: The Philippines, one of the world`s largest labour exporters, has ordered a ban on the deployment of workers to 41 countries including war-torn Afghanistan and booming India where Filipino officials say there are inadequate protections against labour abuse, the government said Wednesday.
Labour Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said worker deployments to 125 other countries would continue because Philippine embassies have verified they have laws protecting foreign workers.
A 2009 Philippine law requires that workers only be sent to countries that provide legal protection to foreign labourers, are a party to international labour protection accords or have agreements with Manila that guarantee against abuse.
Nearly 10 percent of the Philippine population of 94 million work abroad, with many going to the Middle East.
Carlos Cao Jr., who heads the government`s Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, said the bans will take effect 15 days after the order is published in major newspapers. The countries affected by the bans are not major destinations of Filipino workers, he said.
The few hundred Filipinos working in those countries can remain there until their current contracts expire, Baldoz said.
Multinational companies with high labour standards will be exempted from the ban even if they operate in countries like Afghanistan where the labour ban will be imposed, she said.
Philippine lawmakers who passed the 2009 law "were very much aware of the welfare issues, exploitation and abusive practices in some countries," Baldoz told The Associated Press.
The bans will be lifted if the affected countries take adequate steps to protect Filipino workers from abuse and allow them to seek help if they are maltreated, Baldoz said.
The countries affected by the ban include Afghanistan, Cambodia, India, Cuba, North Korea, Haiti, India, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Serbia, Sudan and Zimbabwe.
Filipinos who wish to work overseas are required to obtain government approval, although some circumvent the regulation and travel abroad on their own.
Overseas Filipino workers are hailed as heroes for the help their earnings bring to the country`s economy, but widespread stories of sexual and physical abuse, and even deaths, have made their plights a powerful emotional issue which officials have struggled to address.