According to the International Labor Organization, more than 232 million people across the globe live outside their countries of origin, and migrant workers and their families account for 90 percent of all international migration. This type of movement of people for work has become increasingly important to the prosperity of the global economy, and to the livelihood of individual workers seeking opportunity. However, as more people move for work, and more employers seek global talent, many migrants find themselves entangled in a “grey” market run by unscrupulous recruiters and employers. As a result, they can face abusive conditions that amount to modern-day slavery.
Initial efforts to address exploitation of workers in product supply chains focused on the immediate working conditions at the factory or worksite. Research into supply chains has revealed that much of the exploitative practice in supply chains occurs in the recruitment process. These exploitative practices happen when migrants, often unaware of other options, pay high recruitment fees, and begin a journey of mounting debts. In the absence of other options for repayment, this debt effectively binds them to the workplace and leaves them open to further abuse, something that can take place without the knowledge of end employers.
What laws exist to protect migrants?
The Dhaka Principles for Migration with Dignity (the “Dhaka Principles”) are a set of human rights based principles to enhance respect for the rights of migrant workers from the moment of recruitment, during overseas employment, and through to further employment or safe return to home countries. The Dhaka Principles provide a roadmap that traces the worker from recruitment, through employment, to the end of contract and provides key principles that employers and migrant recruiters should respect at each stage in the process to ensure migration with dignity.
According to the ILO Fair Recruitment Initiative, workers may encounter one or more of the following abuses in the recruitment process:
- Deception about the nature and conditions of work.
- Retention of passports.
- Illegal wage deductions.
- Debt bondage linked to repayment of recruitment fees.
- Threats if they express a desire to leave their employers, coupled with threats of subsequent expulsion from a country.
How does responsible recruitment affect decent work?
The ILO defines Decent Work as the one that “dignifies and allows the development of own capacities”, and offers “opportunities for work that is productive and delivers a fair income, security in the workplace and social protection for families, better prospects for personal development and social integration, freedom for people to express their concerns, organize and participate in the decisions that affect their lives, and equality of opportunity and treatment for all women and men.”
Therefore, ensuring decent work for all is an essential aspect for economic and sustainable development. Quality employment and decent work conditions help reduce inequalities and poverty, and empower people, especially women, young people and the most vulnerable such as people with disabilities.
Responsible recruitment is key to decent work. When recruiters respect the rights of workers during the recruitment and hiring stage, these principles of respect and upholding human dignity should also reflect a comprehensive vision that takes into account working conditions such as workplace conditions, employment security, excessive work hours and work-life balance, workplace ethics (forced labour and child labour), gender equality and non-discrimination, and social dialog and worker participation.
Complementary actions from companies and governments are important due to governance gaps that leave workers and job seekers vulnerable to exploitation during or due to migration for work.
How can Ardea help your business?
- Download our guide to decent work – https://www.ardeainternational.com/guides/a-guide-on-decent-work/
- Read our 2 part series on decent work – https://www.ardeainternational.com/thinking/why-should-companies-focus-on-decent-work-part-1-of-2/
- Listen to our previous webinar on responsible recruiting – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=29CkP393J2Q