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Welcome to our Recruitment Reform online forum!

These forums are designed for discussions aimed at:

  • Developing global policy positions and recommendations on Recruitment Reform
  • Exploring existing civil society initiatives to improve the situation of migrant workers throughout the recruitment process
  • Identify key areas for advocacy in our Recruitment Reform campaign

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Posts: 41
Discussion Questions
Started by Admin 4 years ago
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:
1. Based on your work with migrant workers, what human and labour rights violations arise as a result of the charging of recruitment fees?
2. In your experience working with migrant workers, approximately how much debt are migrant workers taking on to finance their migration? (If you have specific numbers based on studies that you can share, please advise.) Are there major differences between the debtloads of those who migrate under regular vs. irregular situations?
3. In your experience working with migrant workers, how do migrant workers access the necessary funds to finance their migrations? Do they make enough money in their country of destination to pay back their debts, and if so, how long does it typically take?
4. What good practices are you aware of in regulating or abolishing recruitment fees for migrant workers?
5. What do you see as the primary challenges for governments in regulating or abolishing recruitment fees? What suggestions can we make to governments to overcome these challenges?
6. Do you have any case studies to share that demonstrate the relationship between rights violations and recruitment fees?
7. Do you have any other policy recommendations or comments related to recruitment fees?

Posts: 41
Admin replied 4 years ago...

From our colleague in India:

First of all why should we call it as recruitment fee. A formal way of defining a upper limit for the cost of service to be provided and received?

OR

Is it the costs involved in providing opportunities and charging the receivers for the services provided. As the quality of services in recruitment are dependent upon factors in control and factors not in control for the service provider there are challenges,risks,threats from the business point of view. However viewed from welfare angle there is a mismatch.
A professional holistic view and approach is to be addressed to have clarity on expectations of the employers, job seekers, service providers,migration experts,policy makers and Governments.

It is unfortunate that the Employers pay for the services of service providers or RA's for professional white collar workers and ask the RA's to charge the semi skilled and unskilled workers.

It is a matter of concern between affordability of a professional and less affordability of semi/unskilled workers
Time to skill the emigrants for overseas markets and improve their bargaining/negotiating capacity for more salary and make them aware on the opportunities for trained,tested and certified world class workers.


Posts: 41
Admin replied 4 years ago...

A blue-collar worker who wishes to migrate from India will be able to raise this huge amount only by selling/pledging his land or jewellery. And, after he reaches his dream land, he has to struggle a lot for at least two or three years to clear the debt and regain his property. I know hundreds of blue-collar workers who just send money for the first three years to clear the debt. Then only they will begin to save or spend money for their needs. Recruitment fee is a vicious circle from which a poor blue-collar worker will not be able to come out.

There are many scrupulous recruiting agencies in India which still dupe poor workers who wish to migrate to Gulf countries. Most of these scrupulous agencies charge exorbitant fee for arranging a job for a migrant worker, which eventually put the worker in debt trap. To get a job VISA in one of the Gulf countries, some agencies even charge INR100,000. Intrestengily, the legal recrutiment charges is 1/3rd of the above said amount.


Posts: 41
Admin replied 4 years ago...

From our colleague in USA:

1. Recruitment fees too easily facilitate conditions of debt bondage and forced labor, especially when migrants are tied to a single employer through a work visa program. Additionally, an more commonly, when a worker is in debt from recruitment, he is less likely to report everyday labor violation, like wage theft, lack of overtime pay, threats for against union activity, ect.

2. A CDM study on the recruitment of low-wage H2 workers from Mexico revealed that almost 60 percent reported paying fees, averaging around 590 USD (http://www.cdmigrante.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Recruitment-Revealed_Fundamental-Flaws-in-the-H-2-Temporary-Worker-Program-and-Recommendations-for-Change.pdf). Fees for higher-wage workers in STEM fields, nursing, and teaching have been reported to be as high as 4,000–15,000 USD.

3. The capital is frequently raised through loans, or selling property. While many workers may pay back these fees, they often return home with much less than expected.

4. In California, the state legislature recently passed SB 477, a law which requires foreign labor contractors, on or after to be registered with California’s Labor Commissioner. The contractors must fully disclose employment terms and conditions in writing, and are prohibited from charging workers recruitment fees (http://www.castla.org/senate-passes-sb-477-targeting-unscrupulous-foreign-labor-contractors-sacramento-ca-with-strong-bipartisan-support-the-california-state-senate-today-passed-a-measure-that-would-protect-documented-foreign-workers-from-abuse-and-human-trafficking-by-banning).

5. The subcontracting chain is often difficult to track. Additionally, all of the incentive for contractors go in the other direction. They must compete on the lowest prices, and to get those prices they may use cheaper immigrant labor and overlook recruitment abuses.
6. Do you have any case studies to share that demonstrate the relationship between rights violations and recruitment fees?

See: https://beta.cironline.org/investigations/techsploitation/; http://www.voanews.com/content/us-overseas-contracts-faulted-in-human-trafficking/2533174.html; http://www.aft.org/sites/default/files/news/ILRWGblueprint2013.pdf

7. There must be reporting mechanisms in place which allow workers to report abuses/ fees without losing their job, or, if that is unavoidable, they should be compensated by the top of the supply chain. Contractors and end-run brands must be held accountable for the abuses of their recruiters.

8. The focus MUST be on ABOLISHING fees to WORKERS. Once we begin to mince words, or allow exceptions, firms take advantage of these gaps, ie. flock to the visa categories with the least amount of protections, or mask illicit fees as legal ones. If a worker must put up money up front for legitimate processing requirements, that should be reimbursed by the company. If a legitimate recruiter need compensation, that needs to be paid by the company, not the worker.


Posts: 41
Admin replied 4 years ago...

Responses from USA:
1. In addition to what’s listed below, fees also increase the power that recruitment companies and brokers have in local communities, making it easier for them to control who gets access to opportunities.

2. In Nepal – going rate for migration to Qatar is about 200,000 NPR. Legal limit is 70,000 NPR.

4. Not many – there are one or two recruitment companies that are established under ethical/no-fee structures – one in Philippines, and one in Nepal (FSI).

5. Power of recruitment agencies including collusion/corruption with government officials, owners of recruitment firms serving on recruitment regulating bodies (indonesia), or even becoming senior ministers (Nepal). To overcome these challenges, elected officials should be held accountable to represent the best interests of migrant workers, not just the powerful business interests of recruitment firms. The gaps in our labor laws and policies and, the lack of will to enforce them, allows unscrupulous employers to flout the system

6. look at Guardian articles on abuses in Qatar?

8. Abolishing recruitment fees.


Posts: 41
Admin replied 4 years ago...

From Nepal:

I would like to share my experience and my knowledge with regard to the online discussion on "Recruitment Fee" for employment abroad that I have seen in Nepal. I hope this discussion would bring some positive changes in regard to the recruitment fee either in order to abolish or reduce it.

Nepal government has the provision of recruitment fee that a migrant worker has to pay certain amount to the private employment agencies to secure a job abroad, which is against of the ILO Convention 181, the Private Employment Agencies Convention 1997. The recruitment fee is differently demarcated for different countries of destination. For example, Nepal government has demarcated NRs. 70,000 (approximately US $ 700) for the Gulf countries, NRs. 80,000 (approximately US $ 800) at maximum for Malaysia and for other countries accordingly. However, the migrant workers are forced to pay high recruitment fee to the private employment agencies /agents. The migrant workers are paying NRs. 90,000 (approximately US $ 900) for the Gulf countries and NRs. 1, 20,000 (approximately US $ 1, 200) in average. Usually the recruitment agencies do not provide the receipt of the paid amount, however if asked for the receipt, they provide only the amount allocated by the Government or less and does not mention the about remaining amount which exceeds to the demarcated amount by the government. I am sad to say that the recruitment fee in bulk does not cover the fee for passport and medical checkup, costs for transportation, accommodation and food themselves that means the paid amount only covers the VISA processing and the flight ticket. Hence, violation arises from the recruitment fees.

1. Based on your work with migrant workers, what human and labour rights violations arise as a result of the charging of recruitment fees?
a. According to the ILO convention 181, "the private employment agencies shall not charge directly and indirectly, in whole or part, any fees or cost to workers" however the migrant workers are compelled to pay the recruitment fee for employment abroad. The ultimate consequences of this provision is that either they have to manage the amount by any means which leads them to carry the burden of loan with high interests or sell/collateral their properties or they have to withdraw themselves from going abroad for employment migrant workers are deprived to work abroad those who could not manage the recruitment fee for job abroad.
b. The private employment agencies manipulate the migrant workers in such a way that if a migrant worker pays more amounts then there is a high chance of better job placement abroad. Thus, in order to secure the job placement abroad they are unwillingly ready to pay a high recruitment fee to the recruitment agencies.
c. The migrant workers are compelled to pay the recruitment fee before receiving the employment contract paper and even without the receipt of the payment. This system keeps the migrant workers aloof from right to choice and compels them to sign the contract against their will even if the contract is with different terms and conditions than the verbal agreement made before. The reason behind this is that the migrant workers have to pay the recruitment fee in bulk before their final contract approval from the government. In that case, even though the contract differs in terms of salary, work, company and other terms and conditions than the verbal agreement made before the migrant workers are bound to accept the contract as they have already paid the recruitment fee. Hence, they are being a kind of forced labour at the country of origin.
d. Usually, the migrant workers precede the process through agents and pay the recruitment fee to them not even to the employment agency. As a result, if the migrant workers have to face any problem then there is a high chance that the recruitment agency escapes from their responsibilities and asks to go to the agent for the solution. Hence, the migrant workers are left helpless intentionally.
e. The agents are manipulating the potential migrant workers and encouraging them for employment abroad just for the sake of money or commission from the recruitment agencies. Hence, there is a high chance of being cheated by the agents in the name of recruitment fee.
f. After they reach in destination country, due to the loan with high interest rate the migrant worker are forced to work even though they are paid less salary, different work and different terms and conditions than mentioned in contract signed in the country of origin. Moreover, because of the loan with high interest the families also pressurize them to in that condition in order to repay the loan.

2. In your experience working with migrant workers, approximately how much debt are migrant workers taking on to finance their migration? (If you have specific numbers based on studies that you can share, please advise.) Are there major differences between the debt loads of those who migrate under regular vs. irregular situations?

a. In my experience and based on studies, approximately above 80 percent migrant workers are taking loan for employment abroad. Approximately, a migrant worker takes NRs. 50,000(approximately US $ 500) to NRs. 1, 50,000 (US $ 1,500) in average for the Gulf countries. Particularly, the migrant workers are paying high employment fee for Malaysia, in average a migrant worker has to pay NRs. 1,20,000 (approximately US $ 1,200) to NRs. 1,80,000 (approximately US $ 1,800). However, the recruitment fees may also exceed the above mentioned charges and also differs according to the destination, salary they are supposed to receive and the nature of work.

b. I think there is no major differences between the debt loads of those who migrate under regular vs. irregular situations in case of the Gulf countries and South east Asian countries. However, in case of Far East, Europe and North American nations, the charges are beyond the imaginations for irregular migration.

3. In your experience working with migrant workers, how do migrant workers access the necessary funds to finance their migrations? Do they make enough money in their country of destination to pay back their debts, and if so, how long does it typically take?

a. In average, most of the migrant workers take loan from their relatives and neighbors with the minimum interest rate of 36 percent per annum to 60 percent per annum at maximum. However, the interest rate differs according to the geographical areas.

b. Some of them have found to finance their migration by keeping collateral their properties and even selling the properties.

c. In my experience and knowledge, they are usually able to pay back their debts if the employer company is good and disburse salary on time. The loan payback depends not only on his salary that he receives and the other terms and condition of the company but also depends on the migrant worker's health condition and other personal variables.

4. What good practices are you aware of in regulating or abolishing recruitment fees for migrant workers?
Some of the good practices of the government in regulating or abolishing recruitment fees for migrant workers are:
• Ratification of some international instruments with regard to migrant workers
• Bilateral and MoU with some destination countries
• The provision of ceiling of the recruitment fees
• Various labour polices
• SMS systems to verify the recruitment fee
• Provision for getting the receipt of recruitment fee

However, due to the policies loop holes, policy corruption, political instabilities and transitional phase the above mentioned policies and strategies have not been properly implemented.

5. What do you see as the primary challenges for governments in regulating or abolishing recruitment fees? What suggestions can we make to governments to overcome these challenges?

In my opinion the challenges might be:
a. The existing provision of recruitment fee that a private employment agency can charge to a migrant worker for the job placement.
b. Most of the private employment agencies are run by the politically and economically influencing group. They can directly influence at the policy level since they are in close relation with the parliamentarians.
c. Prevailing corruption and irregularities.
d. There are no proper and specific policies and strategies to regulate or abolish the recruitment fees yet.
e. Lack of standard bilateral agreements and inadequate effort for more bilateral agreements with those destination countries with no bilateral agreement done yet.
f. Poor initiation of Nepal government to ratify the ILO conventions and UN instruments relating to the migrant workers and the recruitment fee
g. Poor access of migrant worker to the information with regard to the recruitment fees with reference to domestic and international laws.
h. The remittances from the migrant workers have been recognized however the grievances of migrant workers have not yet been realized.
i. No proper monitoring and supervision mechanisms of government to monitor the monopoly of employment agencies in receiving recruitment fee from the migrant workers.
j. The access of the private employment agencies to the government seems strong than those of organizations working for migrants' workers.
k. The nexus between the private employment agencies at destination and the countries of origin. For example, in the case of employment in Malaysia, the employment agencies in Nepal have to pay a high commission fee to the private employment agencies in Malaysia to secure the employment quota.

I think the Nepal government should do:
a. Abolish the provision of recruitment fee that a private employment agency can charge to a migrant worker for the job placement.
b. Specific and proper polices and strategy to regulate or abolish the recruitment fee and its proper implementation.
c. Standard agreements with the destination countries with regard to the migrant workers.
d. Ratification of the ILO conventions, the UN instruments and their proper implementation.
e. Public awareness on migrants' rights and responsibilities along with the provisions of recruitment fee for placement.
f. The government should coordinate with the national and international civil society organizations at different levels.


Posts: 41
Admin replied 4 years ago...

From Nepal:

1. Based on your work with migrant workers, what human and labour rights violations arise as a result of the charging of recruitment fees?
• Cause mental problem when not able to reach family expectation and pay off the debt as expected.
• Commits Suicide when dream unfulfilled and not able to pay back loan.

2. In your experience working with migrant workers, approximately how much debt are migrant workers taking on to finance their migration? (If you have specific numbers based on studies that you can share, please advise.) Are there major differences between the debtloads of those who migrate under regular vs. irregular situations?

• Most male migrants from middle class either do not take any loan or only 50%. But those who are poor from the
village usually take 100% loan at high interest rate from 36% to 60%.
• As for women migrant domestic workers trends has changed. Before 100% loan from 30,000/- to 60,000/- with
36% to 60% interest rate thus become bonded labor. But now agents let them fly first and make them pay later.
• Debt loads for both regular and irregular is the same as in regular also they make them pay more than the
government’s rate of recruitment fee but give them receipt of the less amount so migrants cannot claim their
actual amount.

3. In your experience working with migrant workers, how do migrant workers access the necessary funds to finance their migrations? Do they make enough money in their country of destination to pay back their debts, and if so, how long does it typically take?
• Many cases of women not financially supported by husband or in laws so seek financial support from parents
from money lenders at high interest rate.
• Borrow gold instead of money and pay double the weight of the gold on return.
• According to many cases usually it takes from 6 months to two years.

4. What good practices are you aware of in regulating or abolishing recruitment fees for migrant workers?
• Less financial burden
• Less hesitation to leave job which can differ from agreed job.
• More savings.
• Minimized mental problems
• Increase of remittance
• Less re migration(Money earned in first migration usually just enough to pay back loan)

5. What do you see as the primary challenges for governments in regulating or abolishing recruitment fees? What
suggestions can we make to governments to overcome these challenges?
• Management of recruitment agencies and local agents.
• Strong monitoring system.
• Systematic recruitment process.
• Stronger punishment for blacklisted RAs and agents.

7. Do you have any other policy recommendations or comments related to recruitment fees?
• Need stronger law enforcement to regulate recruitment fee or abolish recruitment fees.

8. In our advocacy, should we concentrate on REGULATING recruitment fees, ABOLISHING recruitment fees, or
something else? Why? (answers may depend on your national or regional context)
• We should concentrate on abolishing recruitment fees as fees are already provided by employers or companies
in destination countries. ( Reason - Ans. No.4)


Posts: 41
Admin replied 4 years ago...

From Bahrain:

1. Based on your work with migrant workers, what human and labour rights violations arise as a result of the charging of recruitment fees?

It can result in debt bondage. Many migrant workers who pay recruitment fees can only do so by selling assets or borrowing money. This practice results in a massive reduction in their bargaining power. Evidence of this can be seen before they leave their countries – they are afraid to ask their agents/brokers too many questions about the nature of the job or ask for explanations about the contract for fear that the job does not materialise. One example of this is of a female domestic worker who understood she was travelling to Berlin in Germany to work but when she discovered it was to Bahrain ‘ It was too late: I had paid for my passport, ticket and visa. What could I do?’
On arrival in the country of destination, again, if workers discover differences in the contract or conditions they are more afraid to challenge them due to the risk of losing the job. Even if they do find the courage they are met with responses such as ‘What are you going to do about it? Pay me BD1,000 (US$2,650), buy a ticket and go home then...!’ – which of course the sponsor knows is impossible for them to do.

Many arrive at the airport in the destination country having paid high recruitment fees only to be told that there is no job waiting for them. In these situations they have no choice but to wander the streets looking for any illegal work they can find.

2. In your experience working with migrant workers, approximately how much debt are migrant workers taking on to finance their migration? (If you have specific numbers based on studies that you can share, please advise.) Are there major differences between the debtloads of those who migrate under regular vs. irregular situations?

Male Asian workers from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan are typically paying between BD 1,000 (US$ 2,650) and BD 2,000 (US$ 5,300) in their countries before coming to work in Bahrain with most paying BD 1, 200 (US$ 3200) They are often also paying for their own air tickets and the cost of pre-departure medicals.

Domestic workers from India and Sri Lanka are very rarely paying recruitment fees. However, domestic workers from Kenya, Uganda and Ghana routinely pay about BD 100 - 300 (US$ 265 - US$ 800) in recruitment fees and also sometimes pay air fares and for their passports.
Debtloads for those arriving under irregular situations are generally, though not always, greater.

3. In your experience working with migrant workers, how do migrant workers access the necessary funds to finance their migrations? Do they make enough money in their country of destination to pay back their debts, and if so, how long does it typically take?

Selling land, homes, jewelry, family dowries or borrow. If they have borrowed money the debts take much longer to recoup because they have to pay interest. Very often they can only manage to repay the interest. Their monthly salaries are usually a maximum of one tenth of the debt. Most cannot afford to repay much of their meagre salaries because they have to pay rent, food etc for themselves as well as send money back home to feed, clothe and shelter their families so the repayment takes years. Invariably some bigger expense will accrue too such as a member of the family falling ill. The worker will then also have to foot medical bills for a sick wife/son/brother/uncle thus further extending the repayment period.

Sometimes workers and their families never recover from this burden of debt – it simply never gets repaid and they end up borrowing more money for essential expenses. This can produce a constant state of desperation which can lead to depression and even suicide.

4. What good practices are you aware of in regulating or abolishing recruitment fees for migrant workers?
Since September 2014, manpower agencies in Bahrain are required to deposit BD 10,000 (US$ 20,650) with the Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA). This was initiated to protect employers/sponsors from losing out if the worker absconds but by protecting the employer/sponsor from losing money it should also indirectly protect the worker because it puts more pressure on the recruiter to match the worker to the job and helps to guard against the worker from being forced to repay losses incurred by the employer/sponsor.

5. What do you see as the primary challenges for governments in regulating or abolishing recruitment fees?

To properly regulate recruitment fees, the costs will be very high and the logistics challenging, if not prohibitive, .
Could someone explain how it would work if the fees could be abolished? Or does the question refer to a system whereby workers find their own jobs online for instance which comes with its own perils? Or where govt labour ministries contract temporary workers?
What suggestions can we make to governments to overcome these challenges?
See queries above but Ministries of Labour in destination countries could take responsibility for temporary contractual workers.

7. Do you have any other policy recommendations or comments related to recruitment fees?

Workers should only be recruited by agencies which are approved/licensed and monitored jointly by the governments of countries of origin and the countries of destination. Embassies in countries of destination should be more proactively involved in screening agencies and protecting their workers. (Workers from countries not having consular representation are at a disadvantage.)
Matching of suitability and skills should be a part of the recruiters’ job for labourers and domestic workers as well as for other workers. Currently no matching takes place for this strata of men and women - they are recruited as if they are commodities!


Posts: 41
Admin replied 4 years ago...

From Canada:

Some quick inputs for consideration.

1. The approach of regulating fees is fraught with loopholes at the policy and practical level. For example in Canada, a number of provinces have recently put in place legislative measures to licence and regulate labour brokers including jurisdictions that say yes to some types of fees to other jurisdictions that say in their region no fees rules. In the case of no fee’s policy, the brokers ignore and operate illegally. In cases where complex and often confusing rules are put in place to permit some fees - well confusion and abuse follows. For example, when brokers are allowed to charge fees for ‘settlement services but not allowed to charge fees for employment related services, migrants report, the broker simply calls an employment service a settlement service and charges the migrant worker anyway. Gov’t consistently report they are under-resourced to address the shady operators who are illegally charging fees. In short opening the door to a regulated fee approach means confusion follows; it also typically means gov’t are ill prepared to monitor and ensure compliance with any fee schedule. Also the redress process is complaints driven and of course migrants are in a unbalanced power relationship which limits their ability and due to their temporary term in the country means the timelines to file a complaint within a gov’t process that is unprepared to do the job on ensuring compliance = a lousy outcome.

2. I believe that before migration schemes became such a big business, gov’ts via civil servants played the role of ensuring the temp jobs were legitimate, ensured the employment contract was consistent with national labour standards and could be accessible to deal with problems on the job site. This used to be the case in Canada for the Agricultural Worker program 40 + years ago. Of course the numbers were small back then. But the system worked. Only when the Cdn govt’ outsourced the mechanics of the temp agricultural worker program to a consortium of farm owners did the problems begin to surface that we all know so well today. By excluding workers or their representatives from the task of negotiating wage and working conditions and essentially privatizing the migration program -the table was set for brokers to move in and charge fees for a host of ‘services’. Bad things then become institutionalized.
By advocating a return to no fees position, coupled with investments by gov’t in job creation of civil servants to manage temp migration schemes we have the moral weight and authority of the public service ensuring labour standards are being uphold. This of course also means the added advantage of job creation within the public sector vs outsourcing to the private sector where inadequate compliance, monitoring and enforcement measures are plentiful.

So in short - I believe we have more to gain by advocating for a no fee policy position and an investment in gov’t labour ministries to undertake the full suite of tasks to manage and oversee temp migration schemes.


Posts: 41
Admin replied 4 years ago...

From Singapore:

1. Based on your work with migrant workers, what human and labour rights violations arise as a result of the charging of recruitment fees?

The primary problem regarding high recruitment fees is that it makes workers very vulnerable to exploitation. Many workers take out large loans to pay their fees and as a result feel like they are unable to leave their jobs and go home without paying back their debts. We have seen workers forced into exploitative situations such as overwork, unwilling sex work and illegal work situations because they were afraid of losing their jobs due to their liability to repay their debts.

Many migrant workers already face various problems accessing justice due to various reasons such as isolation and their lack of employment records. The constant fear of being repatriated after paying such high amounts of recruitment fees makes workers unwilling to speak up against their employers. This vulnerability can mean that errant employers are able to violate workers’ human and labour rights without detection or consequence.

One of the more pertinent problems for the workers is the violation of their right to work and to just and favourable conditions of work (Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 23(1)). In Singapore, many migrant workers are subjected to violations which include, but are not limited to:
- Inadequate accommodation and food;
- Psychological abuse;
- Non-payment of salary, unauthorized salary deductions;
- Unsafe workplaces, work injuries and lack of compensation for injuries; and
- Long working hours.

In our experience, migrant workers are more likely to accept abusive conditions of work if they are bound by a debt.

2. In your experience working with migrant workers, approximately how much debt are migrant workers taking on to finance their migration? (If you have specific numbers based on studies that you can share, please advise.) Are there major differences between the debt loans of those who migrate under regular v irregular situations?

Construction workers:
HOME’s migrant construction worker caseworker estimates that Chinese construction workers, on average, accumulate debts of US$2440 to US$3252 to finance their migration to Singapore.

A report by a Singapore NGO Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) found that 150 inexperienced Bangladeshi construction workers who began work in Singapore between 2007 and 2011 paid recruitment fees averaged US$5561 (S$7256). For experienced workers renewing their contracts, the average renewal payment was US$828 (S$1081).

Foreign domestic workers:
Foreign domestic workers in Singapore pay recruitment fees through a system of salary deductions. The worker will forfeit their first months of salary to repay the agency’s fees. The average deduction amount differs for workers from different countries. In HOME’s experience, the average deduction for Filipina and Indonesia workers is 5 months. In our experience, workers from Myanmar usually pay around 8 months’ worth of fees, but some pay as much as 11 months. Filipina and Indonesian workers earn about US$383 (S$500) per month on average, so the deducted amount adds up to be about US$2680 (S$3500). Workers from Myanmar earn about US$345 (S$450) per month on average, so the deducted amount adds up to be about US$2760 (S$3600).

Generally, workers from the Philippines do not incur additional debts. However, in Indonesia, recruiters sometimes give money to families to encourage them to allow or to press the women to go abroad. The money will invariably be recovered later on, constituting part of the debt.

27 out of 100 women surveyed by TWC2 said that their families had been given by recruiters when the possibility of them going overseas was discussed. We have also heard of this practice occurring in Myanmar. These debts make workers vulnerable to exploitation and trafficking; if the debt is not repaid by the worker, they can face re-deployment by agents, sometimes against their will.
Service Industries

HOME’s caseworker estimates that Chinese workers pay recruitment fees of about US$4880 to US$6500 (30000RMB to 40000RMB) for service industries.

Irregular migrants:
We do not see many irregular migrants in Singapore due to relatively tight border controls, employers’ duty to repatriate workers at the end of the contract and the enforcement of laws prohibiting irregular migration. We have dealt with a few cases of workers arriving on tourist visas and either working illegally or regulating their employment status after arrival. The fees that they pay are the same as those of regular migrants.

3. In your experience working with migrant workers, how do migrant workers access the necessary funds to finance their migrations? Do they make enough money in their country to pay back their debts, and if so, how long does it typically take?

To finance such intermediary fees, workers typically borrow money or sell family property. Those who borrow money often have to do so from unregulated money lenders who charge very high interest rates and use illegal methods, threats and physical violence to recover their loans.

In TWC2’s study of Bangladeshi construction workers, workers earning an average salary of US$496 (S$647) per month would take more than 11 months to earn back the average debt of US$5561 (S$7256). This is not taking into account the worker’s living expenses (and employer deductions for accommodation and food), so it actually takes much longer for most migrant workers.
As TWC2 points out, as a result of such high fees, workers may agree to salary deductions to pay the recruitment fees. This approach may be favoured because of the high cost of credit back in their home countries. However, the migrants may still be charged at levels comparable to those of moneylenders but they are unaware of this. As mentioned above, most domestic workers repay agency fees by way of salary deduction. Also mentioned above, in our experience, domestic workers take between 5 to 11 months to repay their recruitment fees.

The level of debt in Singapore is problematic, as employers have a unilateral right to terminate a worker’s employment contract and return them to their home country. There are no protections for workers to stop employers from repatriating workers as soon as they have paid their debt, effectively meaning that the worker works for months and returns home with nothing.

4. What good practices are you aware of in regulating or abolishing recruitment fees for migrant workers?

Under the regulations set by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), recruitment agencies are only allowed to collect from its hired workers a placement fee equivalent to one month salary, except in countries where laws prohibits the collection of fees from workers. The exception is for domestic workers, for which agencies are not allowed to charge any placement fees. The POEA will cancel the licenses of recruitment agencies which charge excessive placement fees.

In our experience this is a positive rule in theory, but lacks effectiveness in practice due to lack of bilateral agreements and effective enforcement. For example, in Singapore, employment agencies are only allowed to collect a fee not exceeding one month’s salary for each year of the foreign worker’s work pass or employment contract, whichever is shorter, capped at two months’ salary. Agents charging more than this typically attribute the extra cost to recruiters in the home countries, including the Philippines where no placement fee should be charged by domestic workers’ agents.

The Singapore government states that debt paid overseas and the regulation of employment agencies in foreign countries are beyond its jurisdiction. FDWs can try to claim back the fees in the Philippines, but rarely recover the whole cost. Agents continue to collaborate across-borders to charge fees, while Governments fail to collaborate to effectively enforce the limits on them.

5. What do you see as the primary challenges for governments in regulating or abolishing recruitment fees? What suggestions can we make to governments to overcome these challenges?

In HOME’s view, the primary challenge is securing cross-border collaboration between authorities in countries of origin and countries of destination to ensure workers are not charged excessive fees. The issue arises because origin and destination governments do not have the same interests in regulating fees.

To overcome this difficulty, HOME engages in advocacy and collaboration with partner NGOs at an international level. We advocate the entering of bilateral and multilateral agreements between countries to ensure that rules regarding recruitment are clear and enforced.

7. Do you have any other policy recommendations or comments related to recruitment fees?
HOME does not have an official policy recommendation, but some suggestions are:

1. Reduce the number of recruitment agencies to an optimal level to prevent excessive competition among agencies by raising bar in terms of standards and work ethics.

There are currently 1154 employment agencies licensed to recruit domestic workers and 2211 agencies licensed to recruit foreign workers in Singapore.

When there is too much competition among recruitment agencies, the agencies may try and fight for the business of employers. One of the ways they may do this is either offer lower rates, or even give kickbacks to the employers. These increased costs of business will eventually be passed on to the migrant workers. By reducing the number of recruitment agencies, such competition may be reduced and recruitment agencies will have less motivation to offer lower rates or give kickbacks to the employers.

Granting recruitment agencies the licenses to operate based on their merit will also help to ensure that the recruitment agencies that are licensed have at least a certain level of standard and work ethics. We can have more stringent barriers to entry, to prevent recruitment agencies which do not meet certain criteria from operating. Having a rating and ranking system will also motivate the agencies to raise their work standards.

2. Ensure that regulations governing recruitment agencies in countries of origin and destination match.
See our answer to question 5. Cross-border cooperation is essential to effectively regulating recruitment fees charged to migrant workers.

3. Introduce measures to support longer periods of employment for foreign workers
This is a more indirect way of addressing the problem of exorbitant recruitment fees. If workers are allowed to work for longer periods of time and have a right to change employers, this will help to reduce the number of times the workers have to pay recruitment agencies (both overseas and local) to obtain new positions in Singapore. This may prevent unscrupulous individuals and recruitment agencies from profiteering from the vulnerability of foreign workers. This may also reduce opportunities for unscrupulous employers to obtain kickbacks from renewal and give workers an opportunity to work to at least recoup what they have paid as recruitment fees.

4. Better enforcement of provisions
Stronger enforcement of existing provisions preventing excessive recruitment fees and the introduction of stronger protections for migrant workers will help to ensure that workers come forward to report exploitation. This means that errant employers are stopped from repeatedly engaging in exploitative practices.

5. Cutting out the middlemen
One option could be to create a centralised, digital job market which potential workers can access. All employers with Work Permit jobs to offer must recruit through this exchange, which effectively cuts out middlemen.

6. Greater transparency from the outset about the costs a worker may be expected to pay Provisions obliging transparency about recruitment fees would help workers to make more informed choices about their migrant, employment and financial matters.


Posts: 41
Admin replied 4 years ago...

From Lebanon:

1. Based on your work with migrant workers, what human and labour rights violations arise as a result of the charging of recruitment fees?

In the countries of origin migrant workers often borrow to pay for high recruitment fees in order to get to the destination countries. Elevated recruitment fees and heavy borrowing usually means that Migrant Workers are unable to leave the job because they need to pay back their debts.

At the countries of destination, illegal practices of deducting the first three months of the workers salary to partially cover the recruitment fees that the employer pays are often undertaken and the worker is forced to work for free.

2. In your experience working with migrant workers, approximately how much debt are migrant workers taking on to finance their migration? (If you have specific numbers based on studies that you can share, please advise.) Are there major differences between the debtloads of those who migrate under regular vs. irregular situations?

The debt that Migrant Workers accumulate in order to migrate varies from one country to another, from our experience the value can range from 300 USD to 1000 USD or more. Another factor affecting the amount of debt that Migrant Workers accumulate is the presence of bans. Bans increase the cost of migration as workers are made to transit through a third country which increases their travel cost.

3. In your experience working with migrant workers, how do migrant workers access the necessary funds to finance their migrations? Do they make enough money in their country of destination to pay back their debts, and if so, how long does it typically take?

To finance their migration, migrant workers often borrow from family, friends, banks or private lending institutions. Banks and private lending institutions charge high interest rates. It usually takes migrant workers the full salary of the first three months in order to repay their debts .

5. What do you see as the primary challenges for governments in regulating or abolishing recruitment fees? What suggestions can we make to governments to overcome these challenges?

Recruitment is a big industry with influential stakeholders with far reaching connections; governments are often hesitant to regulate those businesses. In Lebanon, the Ministry of Labor has been undertaking steps to regularize recruitment including a decision to close a number of illegal agencies and to ban the advertisement of recruitment agencies services. The latest step that the Ministry undertook was to organize a conference during which the minister announced his intentions to reach bilateral agreement with a number of countries of origin.

7. Do you have any other policy recommendations or comments related to recruitment fees?

Governments of both countries of origin and countries of destination should make the charging of a recruitment fee from migrant workers illegal. The cost associated with migration and recruitment should be solely born on the employer. In parallel, destination countries should also act to place a maximum legal recruitment fee that recruitment agencies are allowed to charge the employer.


Posts: 41
Admin replied 4 years ago...

From India:

AP DWWT has been working with Migrant workers for the last 10 years and very intensely on the issue of Women Migrant Workers from 2009 onwards.

In our every day experience with the migrant workers we have witnessed that almost all the migrant workers are victims of recruitment fees charged to them beyond their capacities. These workers try to find job outside the country with a great scope of economic gain and prosperity. However the reality is that many of them have to borrow huge loans that takes a long time or never been able to repay and thus become bonded labours or victims of vicious circle of abuse.

This study should bring to focus how in order to sell their labour how workers are expected to sell their property, rights, etc and finally end up in greater crisis than they were in the beginning. I hope this study exposes the reality of these workers to the international community and to the decision making body to protect the right of these workers and bring to light the vicious cycle of exploitation of the poor migrant workers.

1. Based on your work with migrant workers, what human and labour rights violations arise as a result of the charging of recruitment fees?

• Become bonded labour
• Accept employment under any conditions
• “It is like paying your amount of salary by yourself in advance for the job. And in many cases migrants become irregular and undocumented as a consequence.”
• Abuse/exploitation at the hands of the employer
• Abuse/ Exploitation at the hand of the agent/s
• Non Payment of salary from 3 months and more
• Family of the migrant having to repay loans, interest, loose property some times when they do not re[pay the loan in time.
• Harassment by the agent/s, Money lender when unable to pay the promised/ expected amount.

2. In your experience working with migrant workers, approximately how much debt are migrant workers taking on to finance their migration? (If you have specific numbers based on studies that you can share, please advise.) Are there major differences between the debt loads of those who migrate under regular vs. irregular situations?

• High interest rates: more than 50% per annum
• The cost varies according to the job and country from Rs. 50000-200000
• For a visa also the workers are charged though the employer is expected to pay for the visa
3. In your experience working with migrant workers, how do migrant workers access the necessary funds to finance their migrations? Do they make enough money in their country of destination to pay back their debts, and if so, how long does it typically take?
• Selling land / possessions/ gold ornaments
• Borrowing money from relatives/ friends/relatives/ in-laws
• Borrowing money from high-interest Money lenders
• Responses range from 6 months to 2 years

4. What good practices are you aware of in regulating or abolishing recruitment fees for migrant workers?

I am aware of the Kafala/ Sponsor ship System that supposed to sponsor the workers with all their expenses. However this remains a myth to many as they have to pay huge amount as recruitment fees. The role of the agent has made this issue even more difficult and there are lines of agents both at home and receiving country wanting to make profit out of these workers. I am aware of the huge amount these workers have to pay to the agents, they also collect the money from the employers and incase of any problem in the employment the worker is fined by asking to pay another whole lot of recruitment expenses. In some circumstances the workers even after having paid second fee due to various reasons (Unable to continue the work, Accidents, Health problems, in ability to fulfill the expectation, change of Job etc) was not free or was victims of exploitation at the hands of the agents.

5. What do you see as the primary challenges for governments in regulating or abolishing recruitment fees? What suggestions can we make to governments to overcome these challenges?

The government has to take up the full responsibility of recruitments for employment. There should be Government to Government agreement with list of employment opportunities and government taking responsibility to recruit, placement and monitor the work with due assistance and intervention. It also necessitates that Governments accept International Labour standards and ratify conventions which will set standards for the labour rights and social protection of the migrant workers. The gaps in our labor laws and policies has equally to be addressed with government recognizing the contribution made by the migrants to home and host country and thus political will to address such issues and intervene when there is a violation of rights. .

Worker went to Riyadh with the help of an agent to work as a Light Mechanic Driver. He paid the agent about Rs.150000 as his charge for finding and employment for him. He got this money by forcing the family to sell their property and partly borrowing some amount on loan. He hoped that as a good driver he could make a good deal and return with fortunes. Though he went on a visit visa after his arrival he got a work permit. Though he was a light mechanic driver he was given heavy machine to drive and had to work under severe pressure to finish the work as well as in severe heat. Mohammed after a few days of work became ill. He suffered also from heart and Lungs problem and was unable to do heavy work expected of him.

He pleaded with the gents to send him back. The agent refused to send him back and told him to pay compensation for the loss they would incur if he left job. The victim’s family got in touch with us and we wrote to the Indian Embassy marking copy to other authorities on the critical health conditions of Mohammed. However the supervisors and agents did not allow Mohammed to meet the Embassy representatives and threatened him with dire consequences. They changed his work place and did not allow him any accessibility to meet the official or report the matter. The pressure from the family forced us to call the agent at Mumbai who recruited him. The agent insisted on that he payed the loss. When we referred to the recruitment contract terms and conditions the agent said that the contract was only a paper, it changed after the worker reached the work place and nothing can be done to keep the contract. In the process of deterioration of health the worker pleaded with the agents to send him home but they insisted that he pay another Rs 150000 if he wanted to return alive. His medical reports were sent to Indian Embassy along with request letters on behalf of Mohammed to help him return. However there was no assistance reached out to Mohammed and finally the family borrowed another Rs. 60000 and payed the agent. He was also not paid salary for three months as compensation for the loss to the agent on finding work for Mohammed. (Rs 25000x3 = 75000+ 60000= Rs. 135000) was the second cost of migration he had to pay for quitting job on health grounds. He could return home- Hyderabad on 19th September 2014 to care for his health.

Through this case we see that the worker though a trained driver had to pay a huge amount to get a job, he was not given the job which he expected, did not get three months of his wages and finally had to pay another Rs. 150000 to return though he was suffering from ill health. He was prevented from meeting the Labour officials of Indian Embassy who visited the work site, he was transferred to another place for work and finally had to pay huge amounts to the agents as charges to the employment.

7. Do you have any other policy recommendations or comments related to recruitment fees?

In my opinion recruitment should be done by the Governments with display of labour opportunities, expectation, contract details and conditions. In case of some recruitment charges it should be minimal should not exceed 15 days wage. The recruitment process should be made online which will provide transparency to the whole process. Corruption should be addressed at all levels to protect the rights of migrants. In case of a nominal recruitment fee government could intervene in arranging this loan through bank at a low rate of interest.

Governments also need to pay attention to the job market needs and train the potential workers who wnt to migrate for employment with testing and certification. Besides there could also be carrier development opportunity both at Home and Destination country.

8. In our advocacy, should we concentrate on REGULATING recruitment fees, ABOLISHING recruitment fees, or something else? Why?

We are for abolishing Recruitment fees as many of these migrants do not have assets and have to borrow, sell property dn enter into greater finical crisis through he process. Secondly the workers are not asking a favor but are selling their labour, their skill, time e and energy for which they should not be made to pay. The receiving country is benefitting from their labour, while the sending country receives their remittances. Thus incase of any financial charge it should be jointly borne by the sending and receiving countries.


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