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  • Mye Mulingtapang

The Filipino stereotype of being a domestic helper in Italy

In Italy only 1% of Filipino workers are managers or professionals in the intellectual and technical spheres and only 5% of workers are performing skilled manual jobs while the majority work in the household service sector according to the Italian Ministry of Labor. A lot of Filipino immigrants were college graduates and professionals before they came to Italy to work. Italy needed migrant workers to keep its economy going. The Filipino migratory influx has risen over the years from the period of 1970 to the present. Foreign workers are obliged to work regularly and continued coming to Italy because of the growing lack of Italian labour. Minor ethnic group Angelie Bernal is one of the hundreds of thousands of Filipinos who took the chance. She was a registered nurse in the Philippines. She set foot on Italian soil in 1996. Like everybody else she worked as a caregiver and nanny before she decided to change her work. Bernal studied and passed the Department of Health qualifying exam and Italian nursing licensure exam in 2010 and now works as a dental assistant. Career progression is not an option for many Filipinos as they settle for low skilled jobs in exchange for better wages. “OFWs goal is to provide financial resources to families back home therefore studying the second time around to have their Philippine diplomas acknowledged is no longer in their priority list,” said Bernal. Professional equality is being handled through bureaucratic procedures such as 'equipollenza'. A Filipino professional should take an examination to have his diploma acknowledged. One has to study his degree course again with credited units from the former university in the Philippines. “Because the first and second generation of OFWs have their educational curriculum different from the Italian educational curriculum,” added Bernal. Dodie Peñaredonda a dentist from Marinduque had to secretly operate a dental clinic to serve Filipinos who can’t afford to pay an Italian dentist. The fees are higher and because of the language barrier Filipinos weren’t able to properly explain what type of service they need. “Noon na wala pa ako lisenya patago at ingat lagi, pakikisama sa kapwa dahil kapag marami ang nainggit sa iyo isusumbong ka nila sa pulis.” (Before when I still haven’t got a license I worked secretly and vigilantly deal with people because a lot might envy you and turn you up to the police.) Career progression Job prospects in other fields are bright. But there are limits on employment opportunities for Filipinos in other sectors because of integration strategies set by the government and labor groups. There is no bilateral agreement between Italy and the Philippines when it comes to hiring professionals and skilled workers. Lack of Italian language skills a barrier Migrant consultant Analiza Bueno said that language might be an important factor why it’s difficult for Filipinos to find work in fields like banking, insurance, health sector and public administration. “Ang problema is language efficiency and hindi recognized ang college degree dito. Unless mag-aral ulit and take the exams for equipollency,” said Bueno. (The problem is language efficiency and college degrees aren’t recognized here. Unless they study again and take equipollency exams.) Due to ethnic characterization Filipinos are always at risk of being discriminated against both in access to employment and in career progression. Immigrants are being stigmatized as simply being helpers. Many teachers, engineers, dentists and nurses do menial work, or take up jobs that are hard and sometimes underpaid. Their professional expectations are therefore far different from the jobs that are realistically available to them

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