New guidelines promote migrant worker rights

(Photo: AFP)

Promoting ethical recruitment and responsible employment during the pandemic has become a necessity that can no longer be swept under the rug as cases of Covid-19 continue to spike around the world.

Last month the International Organization for Migration (IOM) launched the Migrant Worker Guidelines for Employers which offers practical guidance for business enterprises on how to recruit and employ international migrant workers ethically and responsibly.

Despite their valuable contribution to the economy, migrant workers continue to be disproportionately vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, representing approximately a quarter of the 25 million victims of forced labour globally. They also face additional challenges linked to gender inequalities, heightened discrimination and vulnerabilities during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The IOM Guidelines offer concrete steps employers across various sectors can opt for to run their businesses in a manner that respects the human and labour rights of migrant workers. They are primarily for human resources and staff engaged with migrant workers and can be integrated into existing company policies, procedures, and practices. Thus making it a vital tool in creating a productive work environment for all concerned.

Last year, it was reported that Thailand had about 3 million registered migrant workers, largely from neighbouring Myanmar, while there is demand for an estimated 400,000 more.

Dr Nenette Motus, IOM regional director for Asia and the Pacific, said: "Ideally, as a business, you strive to create value for your stakeholders and ensure that you operate in a sustainable and responsible way, for the sake of people and the planet. This includes creating a respectful and inclusive work environment for all your employees, including migrant workers.

"To support businesses in fulfilling their responsibilities during the recruitment, employment, and return, we have developed the Migrant Worker Guidelines for Employers. The guidelines provide employers with an overview of the labour migration process, and human and labour rights risks migrant workers face along their journeys, as well as ways how to involve migrant workers in creating sustainable solutions that address and prevent such risks."

The guidelines add to the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and relevant international human rights and labour standards and frameworks on international migration. They have been developed in a collaborative and consultative manner with buyers, employers, migrant workers, civil society, regulators and labour recruiters.

William Gois, director of the Migrant Forum Asia, remarked: "As we contemplate living with Covid-19, and opening up labour migration corridors, the Migrant Worker Guidelines for Employers will be a critical tool in getting recruitment of migrant workers right. We must build forward better with this know-how."

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