GFEMS-IOM Consortium Seeks to Enhance Ethical Recruitment in the Philippines
October 27, 2020
Ethical recruitment channels remain out of reach for most Overseas Filipinx Workers (OFWs), despite sincere efforts by the Philippine Government to protect them. This puts them at risk of trafficking and if exploitation does occur, unethical channels do not provide any access to grievance mechanisms for remedy.
While the Philippines is in many ways a leader among labor-sending countries with regards to ethical recruitment practices, traffickers exploit remaining gaps. For example, while OFWs migrating for domestic work cannot legally be charged fees (a key source of debt bondage among migrant workers), vulnerable workers in other low-skill sectors, can be charged. Furthermore, enforcement of regulations is not fully effective. A recently released study by Seefar found that on average, Filipina domestic workers paid $700 in recruitment fees despite it being illegal for agencies to charge such fees.
The recruitment industry also has much room for improvement in implementing practices that can reduce the risk of trafficking. There are 1,300 licensed recruitment agencies in the Philippines and countless more informal operators. Almost none of these agencies are in line with international ethical recruitment standards.
With funding from the U.S. Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, GFEMS is addressing these challenges by assembling a consortium of partners led by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), that also includes the Blas F. Ople Policy Center, Diginex, and the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance (the “Alliance”). The consortium will improve recruitment industry practices by supporting and incentivizing the effective, sustainable adoption of ethical recruitment in the Philippines, with particular emphasis on domestic workers and hospitality workers.
Multiple complementary workstreams will bring together the Government of the Philippines, Philippine recruitment agencies (PRAs), the hospitality industry, and civil society organizations (CSOs) dedicated to migrant worker protection. Together, the consortium will provide these stakeholders with:
- Tailored capacity building activities
- On- and off-line toolkits
- An updated grievance reporting and referral platform, especially focused on the Philippines – Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) corridor
- A data-driven action plan for implementing ethical recruitment models across the Philippines
- An ethical recruitment due diligence toolkit for the hospitality industry.
Ultimately, the project aims to sustainably reduce the prevalence of TIP among OFWs by empowering the Government of the Philippines and civil society to create an environment for more employers and PRAs to practice ethical recruitment and provide safer employment alternatives overseas. The planned tools are intended to help the recruitment industry reduce demand for exploitative labor by providing data-driven approaches to drive behavior change and creating greater access to ethical recruitment capacity building programs.
Finally, as part of the Fund’s commitment to expanding the field’s evidence base, we will be researching learning questions related to effectiveness, efficiency, relevance, and sustainability, including:
- How compliant are PRAs with ethical recruitment standards prior to the intervention?
- What are the key reforms needed to create an enabling ecosystem for the implementation and enforcement of ethical recruitment standards?
- What is the role of the private sector in creating demand for ethical recruitment practices and/or further support needed in mainstreaming good practices developed through the project?
- How can collaboration across the recruitment value chain be increased to promote ethical recruitment?
- To what extent is a grievance mechanism platform effective in giving migrant workers a voice to raise their concerns and providing key stakeholders with an opportunity to take remedial action?
GFEMS looks forward to sharing more information about this project as it is implemented, and is grateful for the support of the U.S. Department of State and the partnership of the consortium.
This article and the IOM project were funded by a grant from the United States Department of State. The opinions, findings and conclusions stated herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the United States Department of State.