Fair recruitment and decent employment for migrant workers including regulatory legislation on Private Employment Agencies (PEAs), and strengthening of Public Employment Services (PES)’ capacity.

As labour migration expands, so does the need for fair recruitment and placement services in order to avoid abuses and improve labour matching. Three important ILO Conventions cover work in this area:

  1. The Employment Service Convention, 1948 (88) which calls for “effective co-operation between the public employment service and private employment agencies;
  2. The Migration for Employment Convention (Revised), 1949 ( 97) along with its Annexes I and II of the Migration for Employment Recommendation (Revised), 1949 (No. 86) that define the notions of recruitment, introduction and placement of migrant workers and provide significant policy guidance;
  3. The Private Employment Agencies Convention, 1997 ( 181) which purpose is to “allow the operation of private employment agencies as well as the protection of the workers using their services”.

Despite the existence of international labour standards relating to recruitment, national laws and their enforcement often fall short of protecting the rights of workers, and migrant workers in particular. In response to these challenges, and in order to ensure the adequate regulation of private recruitment agencies, and to offer workers who are victims of malpractices access to remedies, the ILO launched in 2014 The Fair Recruitment Initiative whose main objectives are to:

  • strengthen global knowledge on national and international recruitment practices;
  • strengthen laws, policies and enforcement mechanisms in line with ILO Private Employment Agencies Convention (No. 181) and other standards;
  • promote fair business standards and practices; and
  • foster social dialogue and partnerships; and,
  • promote good practices within the industry and beyond.”

SAMM’s work will include scaling up work on fair recruitment of migrant workers in the SADC region through the dissemination and application of the ILO “Fair Recruitment Initiative”, the “ILO General Principles and Operation Guidelines for Fair Recruitment” and the new definition of Fair Recruitment Fees and Costs adopted by the ILO at the end 2018. Work could involve the pilot-testing of the implementation of the World Bank/ILO “Guidelines on Measuring Recruitment Costs” (linked to SDG target 10.7.1: “Recruitment cost borne by employee as a proportion of monthly income earned in country of destination”).  It could also comprise collaboration with ITUC-Africa that is expanding work on the “Recruitment Advisor[1]”. Work will also involve the promotion of ratification of C181 and C. 189.

Recent Regional Developments:

The Ministerial and social partners’ decisions reached within SADC Employment and Labour Sector meeting; and Migration Dialogue for Southern Africa (MIDSA) – Namibia 2019.

  • Decision to prioritize fair and ethical recruitment in the SADC Region.
  • Updated SADC Labour Migration Action Plan and the inclusion of fair and ethical recruitment.
  • Regional Baseline on forced labour and unethical recruitment in SADC
  • Comoros to possibly join the IOM Global Policy Network on Ethical Recruitment.
    • Currently 7 SADC MS have joined as inaugural members
    • Aligned to the integrative Agenda 2063, IOM embarking on fostering and strengthening regional and national partnerships (Government, Employers, Recruitment Industry and Workers Organizations) to address issues of forced labour and instill fair and ethical recruitment practices aligned to a whole of government / whole of society approach.
  • Review of the Public Employment Services and Private Employment Agencies’ legal, and policy framework as well as fair recruitment of migrant workers’ practices and other labour migration-related work in the SADC and IOC Work has started at a regional level with the assessment on unethical recruitment practices. Country case studies (Madagascar, Mauritius, DRC, South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, Tanzania). If possible also Comoros, Angola, Malawi and Botswana;
  • Technical Support to SADC Member States on the revision of their national legislation on Private Employment Agencies and Public Employment Service’s recruitment of migrant workers.
  • Develop guidance materials on roles and responsibilities of private employment agencies and regional fair recruitment guidelines covering SADC and IOC region.
Objective 6 of the Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) aims at “Facilitating fair and ethical recruitment and safeguard conditions that ensure decent work”. Member States commit to review existing recruitment mechanisms to guarantee that they are fair and ethical, and to protect all migrant workers against all forms of exploitation and abuse in order to guarantee decent work and maximize the socioeconomic contributions of migrants in both their countries of origin and destination.

Specific actions related to GCM 6 include to:

(c) Improve regulations on public and private recruitment agencies in order to align them with international guidelines and best practices, and prohibit recruiters and employers from charging or shifting recruitment fees or related costs to migrant workers in order to prevent debt bondage, exploitation and forced labour, including by establishing mandatory, enforceable mechanisms for effective regulation and monitoring of the recruitment industry;

(f) Strengthen the enforcement of fair and ethical recruitment and decent work norms and policies by enhancing the abilities of labour inspectors and other authorities to better monitor recruiters, employers and service providers in all sectors, ensuring that international human rights and labour law is observed to prevent all forms of exploitation, slavery, servitude and forced, compulsory or child labour;

(i) Provide migrant workers engaged in remunerated and contractual labour with the same labour rights and protections extended to all workers in the respective sector, such as the rights to just and favourable conditions of work, to equal pay for work of equal value, to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, and to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, including through wage protection mechanisms, social dialogue and membership in trade unions;

(k) Review relevant national labour laws, employment policies and programmes to ensure that they include considerations of the specific needs and contributions of women migrant workers, especially in domestic work and lower-skilled occupations, and adopt specific measures to prevent, report, address and provide effective remedy for all forms of exploitation and abuse, including sexual and gender-based violence, as a basis to promote gender-responsive labour mobility policies;

(l) Develop and improve national policies and programmes relating to international labour mobility, including by taking into consideration relevant recommendations of the ILO Fair Recruitment Initiative and General Principles and Operational Guidelines for Fair Recruitment (ILO GPOGFR), UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UN GPBHR), and IOM Ethical Recruitment Flagship Initiative (IOM IRIS).