"Our helper is part of the family !"
Domestic workers in the Philippines
Many people know of the international migration of Filipino domestic workers. This essay is about the situation of domestic workers employed in ordinary Philippine households. Since my first field trip to the Visaya region of the Philippines, in the early 1990s, I have been struck by the number of women and men living and working in households other than their own. It seemed that as soon as people could afford it – even those on a small income, perhaps based on remittances sent by relatives abroad – they would try to hire a domestic worker: it seemed, indeed, nearly impossible not to hire somebody to «help» with domestic chores. «Helping» is a common euphemism applied even to those employees who do all the housework as well as helping to look after the children and / or old people.
Bettina Beer has done fieldwork in the Philippines since the early 1990s, mainly in the central Visayas. She is Professor of anthropology at the University of Lucerne.