Regulating Private Recruitment in the Asia-Middle East Labour Migration Corridor
This issue brief examines labor migration to the Middle East—a region distinguished by its major dependence on migrant workers, the overwhelming majority of whom come from Asia. The author focuses particularly on the role of private recruiting agencies as key facilitators of temporary labor migration on one hand, and perpetrators of exploitative practices that subject vulnerable labor migrants to fraud and abuse on the other, before concluding with recommendations for effective government intervention.
The author finds that the services offered by recruitment agencies often come at a significant cost for migrant workers, who must take out large loans or agree to salary deduction schemes that withhold a sizeable proportion of their pay in order to pay recruitment and processing fees. The brief highlights concerns over the practice of labor migrants re-signing employment contracts on less favorable terms upon arrival in the destination country and employers or agencies demanding repayment of deployment costs if workers want to break their contract.
Although fierce competition to capture the coveted Middle East labor market makes controlling recruitment practices in the Asia-Middle East migration corridor extremely difficult, the author suggests that concrete and enforceable outcomes can be achieved through policy levers that contribute to four overarching goals: reducing the number of recruitment agencies to an optimal level to prevent cut-throat competition among them; bringing subagents and brokers into the formal sector; regulating transactions among recruiters and between recruiters and employers; and harmonizing regulations governing recruitment agencies at origin and destination.
I. Asian Labor Migration to the Middle East: Three Distinct Characteristics
II. Private Recruitment Agencies: A Necessary Evil?
III. Policy Options
IV. Conclusion: Thinking Beyond Recruitment Policies