Filipinos in Macau becoming less Filipino

The Filipino community in Macau is losing its identity and cultural roots in the face of the phenomenon of abusive supervision in the workplace. The dissociation from Filipino culture can be seen as a coping response to how they construct the abusive supervision as prejudice

The Filipino community in Macau is gradually detaching itself from its cultural and identity roots as a result of an “abusive supervision in the workplace” process. 

The findings are from a study by two professors from the Dept. of Psychology at the University of Macau, in collaboration with a researcher from De La Salle University in Manila, titled Abusive Supervision and Well-being of Filipino Migrant Workers in Macau: Consequences for Self-Esteem and Heritage Culture Detachment 

In particular, the paper says, “we look at the tendency to reject one’s heritage culture, which we refer to as heritage culture detachment, as an indirect negative consequence of abusive supervision . . . Results of the simple mediation analysis indicate that abusive supervision influenced heritage culture detachment directly and indirectly through its effect on self-esteem.”  

The paper, published in the Social Indicators Research journal, continues, “Abusive supervision reported by the Filipino migrant workers was associated with a greater tendency to detach themselves from Filipino culture while working in Macau. Aside from the direct effect, abusive supervision was also negatively associated with self-esteem; lower self-esteem in turn predicts higher heritage culture detachment.” 

The team led by Professor Allan Bernardo states that “perceptions of abuse from supervisors impair migrant workers’ self-esteem, which in turn is associated with their tendency to detach themselves from their heritage culture as they attempt to acculturate in the country where they have chosen to work. This indirect relationship between abusive supervision and the component of attachment to heritage culture is not an obvious one and has not been previously shown in research literature.” 

Allan Bernardo, Mary Daganzo and Anna Ocampo also wrote: “Our results show that this component of migrant workers’ acculturation orientation and wellbeing is associated with abusive supervision in the workplace,” adding that “this particular finding is a significant theoretical contribution.”  

Risk of abusive supervision might be higher among domestic helpers 

“The data indicate that the average perceived abusive supervision was low in the sample,” Professor Bernardo told Macau Business. “So at least for the sample of our study the problem of abusive supervision was not bad. But in those cases when the Filipino workers reported such experiences, it tended to be associated with developing self-worth and higher tendency to dissociate from their Filipino culture.” 

“Our interpretation is that they attribute the abuse to prejudice or discrimination they receive being Filipinos,” he added. “So, the dissociation from Filipino culture can be seen as a coping response to how they construct the abusive supervision as prejudice.”  

This professor of the Department of Psychology of the University of Macau also warns that “even as the results indicate low levels of abusive supervision experienced, there is always a risk that our study underestimates the actual cases. We will only know if we have larger and representative samples.”  

In the study appearing in the Social Indicators Research journal the team explains the limitations of the research and, in this conversation with Macau Business, Bernardo  emphasises that “our study also did not analyse specific types of workers, and I do wonder if the risk of abusive supervision might be higher among domestic helpers, for example.” 

247 respondents. 51.8 pct domestic helpers or household staff 

Questionnaires were distributed to Filipino migrant workers in various areas of Macau including in their workplace, residence, and other gathering places (like churches). 

In all, 247 Filipino migrant workers, officially referred to as non-resident workers in Macau (all respondents possessed a ‘Non-resident Worker’s Identification Card), participated in the study. The average age of the participants was 35.38 years, while the majority (62 per cent) were females. 

More than half (51.8 per cent) identified themselves as domestic helpers or household staff; the others worked as cooks and servers in food establishments (15.4 per cent), security guards (11.7 per cent), assistants and helpers in stores (8.1 per cent), cleaners (4.9 per cent), building assistant (2.4 per cent), and others (e.g.) building assistant, customer service assistant, driver, gardener, caddie, etc., 5.3 per cent).  

“This composition is consistent with the official statistics recorded in the past three years by the Public Security Police Force (2015) of the Macau Government,” the study noted. 

All measures were originally prepared in English and were translated into Tagalog. To ensure linguistic and conceptual equivalence with the original English language scales, graduate research assistants fluent in both English and Tagalog were employed, states the paper. 

Abusive supervision 

“Abusive supervision has many direct and indirect effects upon the productivity and psychological wellbeing of workers, but the research literature indicates that there are hardly any systematic investigations on abusive supervision’s consequences upon the wellbeing of migrant workers,” states the research. 

There are many facets of psychological wellbeing that “are affected by abusive supervision”. That’s why this study focuses upon aspects of “the migrant workers self-worth and social identity.”  

A worker’s self-worth and self-esteem are important aspects of wellbeing, particularly in the workplace. In the case of migrant workers, low self-esteem has been associated with higher levels of anxiety, depression, and other indicators of psychological health, wrote Bernardo, Daganzo and Ocampo.