[ This is probably the most scatterbrained post I’ve done, but I just wanted to put my thoughts onto paper soonest. The news video above is dated, but the content is almost exactly about the problems addressed below. Thanks for your patience, and thanks for reading! ]
I’m simply awful in transferring pictures and other graphics to my YLBnoel site, so I’ll just enumerate a previous stat mentioned in a news feature program recently. In a study of cultural differences on how employees from different countries expect to be managed, the Philippines emerged near the top (of 100+ countries) of cultures that want to be told exactly what to do, with our workers scoring nearly 100. The higher the score, the more the culture desires to be micromanaged, so to speak.
The funny thing is, at the bottom of the list, scoring nearly zero, or prefer to be left alone to do the job the way they do it, are guess what? My hosts the Kiwis of course, whose individuality and inventiveness combine to make them the best employees to leave alone as soon as you tell them the job description.
Without even looking at the complete list I know that co-leaders with Pinoys are other Asians like Koreans, Thais, Singaporeans, Taiwanese and of course, Chinese. Because we are such a hierarchical society, we take word-for-word whatever instructions our bosses and supervisors give us, and prefer that we are given the complete set of steps on what to do, as opposed to other cultures that immediately conceive of a variety of ways to do the job.
Talking about other nationalities, it’s relatively easy for a Pinoy like me to pretend that we’re from other cultures just for the fun of it. I think I’ve told you before that I started out in Wellington successfully pretending (for a month at least) to be a Vietnamese flatmate of Pinoys whenever friends visited, just to stop them from asking too many busybody questions. In various times I’ve also been taken for a Chinese, Taiwanese, Thai, Korean and almost every other Southeast Asian national, which isn’t too surprising, since, I belong to both the Malay, and Chinese family of races and I’m fairly certain somewhere up in my family tree is a sly Spanish friar or lecherous Cantonese merchant.
Unfortunately, the various Asians that I look like and represent in my appearance and culture share something else with me besides appearance. As mentioned above, we repose such high respect in our bosses, supervisors and employers that we seldom if ever question their decisions, orders and instructions, no matter how unsafe, dubious or illegal they may be.
Nearly every week in New Zealand media, you hear of migrants and work visa holders working for less, much less than the legislated minimum wage, working under shocking conditions, and occasionally being forced under threat of trouble with the authorities to work for no pay at all.
In keeping with its reputation as a labor- and migrant friendly country, New Zealand has expanded its migrant protection laws to sharpen penalties against migrant worker exploitation, with punishments to include lengthy jail time, fines and possible deportation for employers who are themselves migrants, as reported in a recent article.
For example, if a potential employer knows that someone is in desperate need of a job, and the time on the latter’s work visa is running out, such job applicant has little choice but to accept a job offer, even if the wage rate is below the minimum required by law.
I admit that I’ve been in a position like this when I was unemployed, my work visa was running out and my scarce reserves were running low. A dairy owner offered me NZ$7 an hour (below the floor rate of $12) for work that believe me, made me work for every cent. Sadly, it was the knowledge of my desperation, and the fact that my employer couldn’t care less if he was paying me five dollars less than the legal rate that was the reason the situation and many others like it continue to exist in New Zealand today.
Completing the ignominy of many situations addressed by the new laws is the reality that migrants themselves take advantage of naive and newly arrived migrant workers who make the mistake of trusting one of their own. Again, even in our own Pinoy community, we have an unscrupulous few who have taken money from our kabayan for shoddy service without batting an eyelash.
Longer jail terms, stiffer fines, and even deportation for migrant offenders are the sharper teeth of the new laws protecting exploited migrant workers.
Let me just say that the economic slowdown and continuing recession has not made our adopted country the ideal place to work overseas. But it’s still a great place to work in, as long as I work hard, and follow the conditions in my work visa. Every effort is made by government to protect worker rights and migrant rights. The least we can do is to use these laws to make the work experience here fruitful and worry free.