Musings

A sad but touching story and the ethics of having domestic helpers

My Family’s Slave, an article in The Atlantic by Alex Tizon, was doing the rounds on Facebook today and I first saw the link on my uncle’s post.

I started reading it while waiting for my midwife appointment at the hospital and was riveted from the beginning. I had to stop when she called me in but I vowed to finish reading it as soon as I had the chance.

It’s a long read but I couldn’t put it down. Since I made dinner especially as requested – bacon pasta, one with cream and the other with red sauce – I ended up ignoring the kids after dinner just to finish the article. Luckily, Daddy took it upon himself to play with them then get them ready for bed.

The article was an eye-opener for me. I’m aware that domestic helpers in the Philippines are pretty much modern day slaves with their meagre pay and no other options in life, but I never knew there are some that are actual slaves because they are not even paid at all.

My Facebook post about the article with a comment about how domestic helpers in Filipino households today are modern day slaves struck a chord with the uncle who posted it.

He was immediately defensive of how they pretty much treat their helpers like family. And that the lack of education of certain people in the population in the Philippines meant that servitude to families as domestic helpers is a far better option than other jobs. At least they get room and board on top of being paid.

I used to say the same thing to my husband when he would tell me that the domestic helpers are slaves. I would also feel defensive, remembering how much I loved the “yayas” (nanny) I had when I was little and remember that they too were treated like family members… almost.

Having lived in Australia for most of my life, I could afford to hold a different perspective regarding this topic. Over time and many discussions later, I started to see and understand what my husband was referring to. Given the choice, where money isn’t an issue, none of these helpers would ever choose to be one.

That may be true, but since poverty exists in the Philippines, I still maintain that for a lot of poor people there, servitude to families as maids, drivers, yayas, cooks, etc, were much better options than living in abject poverty or earning money through selling drugs or prostitution. Which is a whole other can of worms in the country.

There’s so much to be said about such things. I’ll most definitely be writing about these in the future.

 

 

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