Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Ensuring fair and ethical recruitment of workers

Ensuring fair and ethical recruitment of workers

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Cambodian migrant workers sit in the back of a truck after crossing the Thai-Cambodian border in Banteay Meanchey province. Many multinational enterprises are reassessing their supply chains with a focus on protecting the labour and human rights’ of workers. afp

Ensuring fair and ethical recruitment of workers

Human trafficking, forced labour and debt bondage occur across the world, in the manufacture and delivery of our goods, in building our houses and skyscrapers, in our homes, restaurants, car washes and brick kilns. But increasingly, consumers are making their voices heard. Customers do not want to purchase goods produced with forced labour.

CIients and contractors are demanding businesses do better to erase these abuses from their supply chains. Countries are putting in place ‘modern slavery’ legislation to ensure that businesses guard against the risk of forced labour.

This is increasingly driving demand for fair and ethical recruitment of workers, especially migrant workers. In response, many multinational enterprises are reassessing their supply chains with a particular focus on protecting the labour and human rights’ of workers.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has recognised the crucial link between paying for a job, and the risk of exploitation, abuse and human trafficking since the adoption of the Convention on Private Recruitment Agencies (No 181) in 1997. That is why the convention states clearly that ‘workers shall not be charged directly or indirectly, in whole or in part, any fees or related costs for their recruitment.’

In Cambodia, private recruitment agencies play an important role in labour migration. They provide a service that many migrant workers need – connections to work abroad and assistance getting the right documents prior to travel.

But, the ways in which agencies recruit workers has a direct effect on a worker’s migration experience, particularly the protection of their human rights. Where workers are charged excessive fees, they are more likely to be ‘trapped’ in their job and unable to leave.

The ILO works with governments and recruitment agencies around Asean to move towards realising the goal that no worker should pay for a job. Cambodian recruitment agencies are also participating in striving to this goal.

This month, the Association of Cambodian Recruitment Agencies (Acra) and the Manpower Association of Cambodia (MAC), in conjunction with the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training, launched a Code of Conduct for Cambodian Private Recruitment Agencies.

The code is a practical tool, containing 12 core principles that, if effectively implemented, will help to ensure private recruitment agencies are promoting and protecting the rights of migrant workers. For example, the code clearly instructs agencies to reduce costs and fees for migration with a gradual transition to moving towards a zero fee model.

The finalisation of this code is a significant step forwards. It is a robust document, reflecting domestic and international labour standards. It is also a powerful tool for migrant workers, helping to clarify what they can expect of a private recruitment agency.

Private recruitment agencies are strongly encouraged to adopt the code and make every effort to improve their recruitment practices. Given international businesses emphasis on human rights, adherence to the code will assist recruitment agencies in expanding their business in the international market.

Implicit in the code is the belief, shared by Acra and MAC, that recognition of human rights and implementation of responsible business practices is not only the right thing to do – it can also be profitable.

Launching the code is an important step, yet there is still much work to be done. To ensure the code is useful, Acra and MAC must continue to play a leadership role and encourage recruitment agencies to become signatories. Once the code has support from agencies, it can be used to assess compliance against the code’s minimum standards.

Alongside this initiative from the recruitment agency associations, the government has a responsibility to migrant workers and businesses. The labour ministry should also continue to support Acra and MAC’s efforts, and play their complementary role of ensuring that recruitment agencies follow the conditions in the licences and the law.

The ILO was encouraged to see statements by government officials indicating that Cambodia is ready to cap the amounts chargeable to migrant workers under the law, bringing Cambodia in line with Myanmar and Thailand that place strict regulations on how much workers can pay.

Since the passing of the sub-decree 190 on labour migration nearly a decade ago, there has been a gap relating to the regulation of fees and costs payable by migrant workers. The ILO is ready to provide any assistance required to close this gap.

Cambodia became a member of the ILO over 50 years ago, and the Code of Conduct is another achievement in our longstanding partnership with the Cambodian government, employers and workers. The ILO remains committed to support Cambodia in making the most out of migration.

Anna Engblom is Chief Technical Adviser to the Triangle in Asean programme. Since 2015, through the Triangle in Asean programme, the ILO has been delivering technical assistance and support with the overall goal of maximising the contribution of labour migration to equitable, inclusive and stable growth.


  • Khmer New Year holidays postponed

    In an effort to halt Covid-19 infections in the Kingdom, Prime Minister Hun Sen has postponed the Khmer New Year holidays scheduled from April 13 to 16. While the people will not have their usual break, nor will there be any public celebrations or gatherings at pagodas,

  • Private schools struggling

    The Cambodian Higher Education Association has claimed that 113 private educational establishments are facing bankruptcy because of their inability to pay rent and staff salaries in light of nationwide school closures caused by the Covid-19 outbreak. It said the financial trouble started when the Ministry of

  • NA, Senate set for bill on ‘emergency’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has requested the Senate to convene an extraordinary meeting to review the draft law that aims to put the Kingdom in a state of emergency after the bill reached the National Assembly (NA) on Friday. The draft law, which was approved

  • Temporarily laid-off workers to get just $70

    Prime Minister Hun Sen announced changes in the allowances for temporarily laid-off garment workers from receiving 60 per cent of the minimum wage to a flat $70 because factories cannot pay, he said. Workers will also not be required to attend training courses after more than 100 factories

  • Tourists can now prolong their stay

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said tourists holding Visa T and arriving in the Kingdom after January 1 will be allowed to prolong their stay until they are able to return home. The decision comes as Cambodia and most countries take measures to

  • PM: Law likely next week

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said the draft law aiming to place the Kingdom in a state of emergency amid the Covid-19 pandemic is likely to be approved after the Khmer New Year, though he said there is a slim chance of enforcement given the current