Promoting fair and ethical recruitment in a digital world

This joint report by the ILO and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) explores innovative state-facilitated digital technology platforms from four different contexts, with a focus on the Employment Permit System of the Republic of Korea, Musaned from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, eMigrate from the Republic of India and the European Network of Employment Services.

The study maps four examples of state-facilitated digital technology platforms that assist the recruitment, placement, and/or job matching for migrant workers. In reviewing some of the promising practices and lessons learnt, the study aims to offer preliminary guidance to States developing similar online applications and platforms, while also discussing possible approaches on how to best leverage new techniques and technologies, including blockchain technology. When designed and implemented in an inclusive way, these digital technology platforms have the potential to promote institutional transparency and fairness, and can reduce the costs of labour migration and limit the potential for collusion between private recruitment agencies.

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Use of digital technology in the recruitment of migrant workers

This research report shows that digital technology can play a significant role in making safe labour migration and fair recruitment a reality. It also gives valuable recommendations for how to make this happen.

Digital technology could be a game changer in migrant worker protection. The number of internet users around the globe continues to climb and the development of information and communications technologies (ICT) has been unprecedented since the onset of COVID-19. This has resulted in new digital products, including those aimed at migrant workers, such as apps, websites and web portals, internet radio, and electronic tickets.

How can digital ICT facilitate safe labour migration and fair recruitment? To answer this question, the ILO partnered with the United Nations University Institute in Macau to better understand why and how migrant workers use digital technology. A mixed-method study was carried out during the second half of 2020. It included a desk review, a survey, focus groups, key informant interviews, and a landscape analysis of relevant existing digital products.

Based on the research, the ILO is currently developing a short summary tool featuring tips and advice on how to design, develop and promote digital products for migrant workers. The ILO is also organizing a workshop for relevant stakeholders to share lessons from the research and discuss their implications. Participants in the workshop will jointly develop a roadmap setting out the next steps in unleashing the potential of digital technology for migrant workers.

The research is part of the Integrated Programme on Fair Recruitment (FAIR, phase II), which falls within the framework of the ILO’s Fair Recruitment Initiative (FRI) .

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Global: ITUC Migrant Recruitment Advisor

A new web platform aimed at migrant workers lists user reviews of recruitment agencies. By helping migrants avoid falling for false promises, the website is an important tool to promote fair recruitment.

While millions of workers migrate in search of a better life for themselves and their families, far too many are tricked by false promises made by unscrupulous recruitment agencies, including fake jobs, lower wages and unsafe working conditions. Some end up trapped in forced labour and other forms of modern slavery.

A new web platform has been launched to help protect migrant workers from abusive employment practices by providing them with peer-to-peer reviews about recruitment agencies in their country of origin and destination.

The Recruitment Advisor  platform developed by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), with support from the ILO Fair Recruitment initiative , lists thousands of agencies in Nepal, the Philippines and Indonesia.

The platform allows workers to comment on their experiences, rate the recruitment agencies and learn about their rights. Initially available in English, Indonesian, Nepali and Tagalog, it will be further developed in more languages.

Governments provided the list of licensed agencies, and a network of trade unions and civil society organizations  in all target countries ensures the sustainability of the platform by reaching out to workers. Ultimately the system will promote recruiters who follow a fair recruitment process, based on the ILO’s General Principles and Operational Guidelines for Fair Recruitment, and will provide useful feedback to governments regarding the practices of licensed recruitment agencies, which could be used to complement more traditional monitoring systems.

Recruitment is a critical stage when migrant workers are more vulnerable to abuse. “Unscrupulous recruitment agencies take advantage of the lack of law enforcement by governments or because workers are simply not aware of their rights,” says ITUC General Secretary, Sharan Burrow. “It’s time to put power back into workers’ hands to rate the recruitment agencies and show whether their promises of jobs and wages are delivered.”

Typically, many workers are not aware that they should not pay recruitment fees to get a job. This principle is key and has been listed as one of the ILO principles to ensure fair recruitment.

“This platform can help migrant workers make critical choices at the time of planning their journey to work in a foreign country. We know that when a worker is recruited fairly, the risk of ending in forced labour is drastically reduced,” says ILO technical specialist Alix Nasri. “We strongly encourage workers to share their experiences so others can learn from them. A critical mass of reviews is needed for the platform to be really helpful for migrants.”

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Innovating for fair recruitment: harnessing the potential of digitalization


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