Effective October 1, the law, which applies equally to citizens and foreign workers, increased the minimum wage to $3.25 per hour. The national minimum wage provided a decent standard of living for a worker and family. The law does not include informal-sector work, such as domestic work; some categories of agricultural work; NGO workers; and temporary or probationary work of students and youths younger than 20 years.
There is no legislation concerning maximum hours of work. The Bureau of Labor and Human Resources has established some regulations regarding conditions of employment for nonresident workers. The bureau may inspect the conditions of the workplace and employer-provided housing on the specific complaint of the employees, but enforcement was sporadic, and working conditions varied.
Although there are occupational and safety standards, no law protects workers who file complaints about hazardous conditions. Noncitizens may self-censor complaints due to fear they could lose their employment if they removed themselves from situations that endangered health or safety.
The Division of Labor, which had three labor inspectors, enforced minimum wage laws, regulations regarding working conditions of foreign employees, and safety standards and laws. According to the law, employers are subject to a $500 civil penalty for noncompliance with minimum wage requirements, in addition to the amount of unpaid wages, taxes, and social security contributions. Penalties for other violations related to acceptable conditions of work range from $500 per violation to $2,000 and a maximum imprisonment of six months, which were not sufficient to deter violations. In January the attorney general began reviewing cases to allow foreign workers the possibility of changing employers and remaining in the country. There were no reports of violations of occupational health or safety standards during the year.
In addition to their wages, foreign workers usually received basic accommodations and food gratis or at nominal cost. The minimum wage law stipulates that these costs are deductible from wages paid. Wages for domestic helpers employed in private households generally were lower than the minimum wage. The country continued to attract foreign workers from the Philippines, China, Bangladesh, the Republic of Korea, and Japan. During the year there were an estimated 7,000 foreign nationals with work permits in the country; approximately 60 percent were from the Philippines, 10 percent from China, and 10 percent from Bangladesh.
Reports of mistreatment of foreign workers by their employers continued during the year. The foreign workers most likely to be abused were those who worked under contracts as domestic helpers, farmers, waitresses, beauticians, hostesses in karaoke bars and massage parlors, construction workers, and other semiskilled workers, the majority of whom were from the Philippines and China. The most commonly reported abuses included misrepresentation of contract terms and conditions of employment, withholding of pay or benefits, and substandard food and housing. There were also complaints of physical abuse. In a number of instances, local authorities took corrective action when alerted by social service and religious organizations.