Domestic work exacts a physical toll, says study

 MANILA—OVERSEAS domestic work may not be for the weak at heart.

altThis is because fatigue, headaches, or muscular tensions are among the usual physical manifestations of stress by Filipino domestic workers.

Findings from a recent study by the nonprofit Action for Health Initiatives (Achieve) and the Vrije University Medical Center in the Netherlands showed that fatigue, headaches and muscular tensions are common showcases of stress by these domestic workers.

The 500-respondent survey (done in La Union province, Metro Manila, Cebu City, and Davao City) on the stress and mental health conditions of women domestic workers had 64.6 percent of respondents experiencing fatigue; 60.4 percent enduring headaches; and 49.8 percent bearing muscular tensions while abroad.

Some 36.4 percent of respondents also experienced upset stomach or indigestion; 36.2 percent felt fainting or dizzy; and 36 percent are unable to sleep well, said findings of the study that Achieve and.

When asked about domestic workers’ psycho-social symptoms abroad showed that top experiences that happened to these domestic workers were loneliness (68.2 percent), desire to cry and sadness (66 percent each), feeling nervous (36.8 percent), and irritability (32.4 percent).

But the top sources of domestic workers’ joy and happiness are: communicating to one’s family (14.8 percent), receiving one’s salary (7 percent), and having a good and generous employer (6.6 percent).

As to these Filipina domestic workers’ working conditions:

  • Majority lived with their employers (94.8 percent);
  • Some 26 percent worked for 13-to-16 hours;
  • Cleaning the house (87.6 percent), cooking meals (77.4) and doing the laundry (74.4) are common tasks;
  • Some 58.6 percent of respondents were entitled to regular days off;
  • Sixty percent of respondents earned below US$400 (the mandated salary for domestic workers by the Philippine government); and
  • Some 54 percent had insurance coverage overseas to include health insurance, sickness/injury/illness, and life/death insurance. These forms of insurance were availed of by workers who worked in Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates and Singapore, but domestic workers in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait were not provided with insurance.


The study “Women and Migration: The Mental Health Nexus” was funded by the Joint Migration and Development Initiative (JMDI) program of the United Nations Development Programme and the European Union.

The study comes at a time the International Labor Organization adopted the ILO Domestic Workers Convention recently, and urged member-countries to ratify it to that protective measures may be accorded to these informal workers.  (by JEREMAIAH M. OPINIANO – OFW Journalism Consortium )

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