There is growing consensus on providing much-needed respite for migrant workers, who are compelled to pay hefty fees while processing for jobs abroad.
The international community stresses that the employer should bear the expenses of hiring foreign workers, making departures cost-free for aspiring workers.
In a recent move likely to take the heavy financial burden off millions of workers including Nepalis, a meeting of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the UN agency that sets international labour standards and promotes social protection and safety of workers, said that no recruitment fees or related costs should be levied on workers.
The Tripartite Meeting of Experts on Defining Recruitment Fees and Related Costs, held in Geneva on November 14-16, reiterated that the employer should bear all the expenses of recruiting workers. The three-day meeting attended by 24 global experts suggested that the employer cover various fees levied on migrant workers, Ramesh Badal, vice-president of the General Federation of Nepalese Trade Unions, who attended the meeting, wrote on Facebook.
Defining the “recruitment fees or related costs” as “any fees or costs incurred in the recruitment process in order for workers to secure employment or placement, regardless of the manner, timing or location of their imposition or collection”, experts have said that employers, hiring domestic or foreign workers, directly or via recruitment agencies, cannot charge any recruitment fees.
The definition and provisions regarding recruitment fees have been adapted based on the Fair Recruitment Principles and Operational Guidelines prepared by the ILO in 2016.
The expert meeting said that employers should pay for medical examination, work-permit, insurance amount, welfare fund contribution, skill and qualification tests and preparation, pre-departure training and orientation fees, among others.
The expenses for travelling from hometown to recruiting companies for interview; office, hotel, visa application and processing fees; charges for resident permit, security deposit, and other expenses required for legal services should also be borne by the employer, said Badal.
The ILO recommendation comes at a time when a group of 12 labour source Asian countries, and members of the Colombo Process agree to continue efforts at making zero cost jobs for migrant workers.
Recently, Nepal signed a labour agreement with Malaysia, relieving Nepali workers of paying any fees as the employer will have to bear all the expenses of recruitment process including two-way flight tickets. Arjun Kharel, migration researcher with the Centre for the Study of Labour and Mobility, appreciated the growing efforts for relieving migrant workers of financial burden during the recruitment process.
The ‘employer pays’ model should be adopted globally, creating a favourable condition for workers, said Kharel, adding that poor workers should not be burdened financially as they sacrifice their productive years.
However, he voiced suspicion over effective implementation of such schemes and demanded that host countries support the new measures.