Opening address at the making breakthroughs in the implementation of ethical and professional recruitment

By Mr Lawrence Jeff Johnson, Director of the ILO Country Office for the Philippines at the Making breakthroughs in the implementation of ethical and professional recruitment, 2nd Regional Conference in view of the creation of Alliance of Asian Associations of Overseas Employment Service Providers, Manila, Philippines, 1 April 2014

Statement | Manila, Philippines | 01 April 2014
  • Undersecretary Cruz of the Department of Labor and Employment,
  • Deputy Administrator Casco of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration,
  • Mr Frebort of the European Union Delegation to the Philippines,
  • Mr Boasso of the International Organization for Migration,
  • Ms Carletide of the UN Women,
  • Government and private recruitment sector delegates from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Viet Nam.
  • Mr Shepherd of the International Confederation of Private Employment Agencies,
  • Observers from governments and private recruitment industry of the Colombo Process member States,
  • Migration experts, officials and colleagues from IOM and ILO in various country offices in Asia and in Europe
  • Ladies and gentlemen, magandang umaga sa inyong lahat (good morning to all of you)!

Welcome to the 2nd Regional Conference of Alliance of Asian Associations of Overseas Employment Service Providers!

The two-day international event is co-hosted by the ILO and IOM. On behalf of Marco (IOM) and myself, let me say we’re honoured to have you here with us in Manila. As I’ve been in Manila now four years I believe, I can say that it’s truly more fun in the Philippines.

Over the course of the next two days, we have the opportunity to engage and discuss important issues of ethical recruitment and how social dialogue at the national, regional and international levels can help achieve this goal.

International migration is a phenomenon of growing importance. Nearly half of the 232 million international migrants today are economically active, of which 30 per cent are in Asia1.

Along with government, the private sector has been increasingly providing essential employment services to employers and workers, by helping make the link between the demand and supply of labour, across borders.

Everyone here today is aware that recruitment is a complex issue, in a complex world!

For the ILO, it is crucial to ensure that people are not moving from their countries of origin out of necessity, but out of choice. President Aquino in his inaugural address said that migration should be an option and not a necessity. This is the first fundamental pillar for migrant workers to be less vulnerable.

Although awareness of ethical recruitment, and the number of ethical recruitment agencies is increasing, many migrants continue to be exposed to the risk of being lured into exploitative employment by unscrupulous brokers.

The consequences of unethical recruitment practices on workers are well documented. Unethical recruitment has a direct impact on the capacity of migration to yield its development aspirations.

It’s not surprising for most of us that there is a strong relationship between high migration costs and the risks which migrants face.

Reducing the costs of labour migration, including recruitment fees, is one of the UN Secretary General’s 8-point agenda as put forward during the recent High-Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development.

Today, we see a convergence of minds at the international, regional and local levels in favour of ethical recruitment.

At the international level, the ILO is at the forefront of establishing standards and guidelines which include:
The UN has the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and their Families.

Our sister UN agencies such as the WHO has the Global Code of Practice on the International Recruitment of Health Personnel.

UN Women has its Covenant of Ethical Conduct and Good Practices for Overseas Employment Services Providers.

A range of other Alliances, trade unions, professional and industry associations, such as the International Confederation of Private Employment Agencies, present here today, have paid significant attention to ethical recruitment through codes of practice.

These codes of practice supplement government’s mechanisms and enhance the capacity of government’s primary duty to regulate recruitment practices.

Clearly, many organizations are looking at ethical recruitment because, as we already know, unethical practices endanger migrant workers.

Also of great concern is the fact that unethical recruitment practices reduces the development potential of migration and impact on sustainable and inclusive growth both for the host and sending countries.

Unethical recruitment is costly for employers who pay for inadequate recognition of migrants’ skills, falsified documentation, high turnover rate, low morale, low productivity and much more.

We are also all aware that unethical recruitment damages the reputation of the industry as a whole.

There is a clear need for a multilateral approach to the governance of migration as patterns of recruitment are getting ever more complex. Not only for countries of origin, but for countries of transition and destination.

On the way forward, it is vital for stakeholders to come together and agree on a common understanding and implementation of ethical recruitment practices across borders, while avoid duplication of efforts.

We often hear that each country is unique and each migrant is different.

The ILO has introduced a rights-based approach through its Multilateral Framework on Labour Migration. I believe it’s possible and it can be used to endorse the issue of ethical recruitment.

Governments, industry representatives such as yourselves, trade union and employers all play a key role in the design of this international governance system on ethical recruitment. Such systems will help ensure that both human rights and labour rights are respected beyond national borders.

In order for this international framework to succeed, it requires social dialogue at the local, regional and international levels.

I believe we are making breakthroughs in that regard, here and now.

Ethical recruitment starts at home. Each staff member of recruitment agencies in every country – whether receiving or sending – have key roles to play.

As such, ethical recruitment needs to be a bottom up philosophy. As industry representatives, you’re the key to making migration a significant, safe, decent and productive experience for millions of migrant workers you support.

With all of this as a backdrop, I think we have two interesting days ahead of us!

In closing, and on behalf of the ILO, I would like to thank the European Union for its generous financial support to the ILO and its migration agenda, through the Decent Work Across Borders project.

I would also be remiss not to mention the excellent collaboration between the ILO and the IOM within the Philippines. Let me recognize the efforts of the two teams for their passion and commitment. I would like to highlight the efforts of Mr Ric Casco and his team and colleagues at the IOM. And that of my ILO team, Catherine, Jen and Joy from the ILO Decent Work across Borders.

Building on your extensive experience and that of the internationally recognized resource people present, I am confident we will find concrete ways for more ethical and professional recruitment practices, across borders.

I wish you all a productive discussion and fruitful dialogue.

Thank you and Mabuhay!


1SOURCE: Mainstreaming of Migration in Development Policy and Integrating Migration in the Post-2015 UN Development Agenda, Global Action Programme on Migrant Domestic Workers and their Families, International Migration 2013: Migrants by origin and destination.