Labor ministry plans Philippines worker deal by fall

There are around 10 million Overseas Filipino Workers around the world. Photo: Shutterstock/Niyazz

“We are on the right track to an agreement,” deputy labor minister Stanisław Szwed told the Polish Press Agency. “I hope that in the fall we will be able to secure at least a provisional agreement.” He added that a provisional draft of the agreement would be sent by the Philippine authorities.

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Mr Szwed has been taking part in meetings with Patricia Anna V. Paez, the Philippine Ambassador to Poland, concerning a future agreement. The deputy minister also highlighted that the talks had taken place at the initiative of the Philippine authorities.

Around 10-11 percent of the more than 100 million-strong Philippine population are overseas workers, who can only be legally deployed to countries certified by the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs. Following a large increase in the number of workers leaving the Philippines to work in the 1970s and 1980s, the Philippine government enacted the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act in 1995 in order to “institute the policies of overseas employment and establish a higher standard of protection and promotion of the welfare of migrant workers and their families.”

“[The Philippines] have good solutions because they are co-ordinated by a government employment agency. Poland was chosen because our country is close to them culturally, due to the Catholic faith among other things,” Mr Szwed said.

“During the talks it was firmly stressed that we have a good Labor Code, that we have regulated issues concerning minimum wage and hourly pay. That is important to them,” Mr Szwed explained.

He went on to stress that the Filipino workers would be employed in Poland under the same conditions as at present, however they would be more strictly regulated both in Poland and by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, the main government agency of that country assigned to monitor the situation of their overseas workers.

“There would be close contact with the Philippine employment agency and our authorities. We now have to consider which of our offices will coordinate,” the deputy minister said, adding that it will “certainly not” be the labor ministry, but rather one of its offices at a provincial level or even the Provincial Office itself. “The issue is still being considered,” Mr Szwed said.

The deputy minister highlighted that Poland particularly needs highly qualified workers in the IT, construction and medical sectors, including carers for the elderly.

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Poland’s new labor market

In a recently-adopted move towards a more favorable open-door policy, Poland’s government has amended its labor law to cut down on legal red tape with regard to the employment of overseas workers from outside the EU.

Citizens of six former Soviet Union territories will be issued with work permits of up to a year, where previously they could only apply for six-month permits, and citizens of Vietnam and the Philippines will not need work permits at all.

While the governments of Poland and several other nations, including Hungary and the Czech Republic, have presented unwavering opposition to the introduction of compulsory quotas of migrants across the EU following the recent refugee crisis, migration to Poland has been attractive for many non-EU nations since the country’s accession to the bloc in 2004.

Official Polish migration statistics published by the Polish Office for Foreigners show that around 130,000 temporary residence permits were issued to Ukrainian nationals in the first half of 2018, who made up by far the largest group of immigrants to Poland. The Asian leader was Vietnam, with more than 7,000 permits issued. Only 430 temporary residence permits were issued to Filipino nationals in the first half of 2018.