EPAN and IMR’s experience shows that pivoting to the ethical track requires additional resources and could entail short-term financial losses. Policies that make the system rewarding for ethical agents should be a government priority, and international organisations like the ILO (International Labour Organisation) and IOM (International Organisation for Migration) that have expertise in this area and the global reach need to be leveraged.
The ILO, for instance, has piloted a project promoting ethical recruitment of Nepali workers in Jordanian garment factories.
With vested interest groups, political interference, regulatory loopholes and profits at the cost of the needy, it is difficult to picture professionalism and ethical beheaviour. But crossborder intermediation services will remain in demand given the attraction for overseas jobs, since 90% of recruitment is driven by recruiters.
Perhaps the disproportionate focus on just the recruitment costs in Nepal’s migration governance is because it is often the root to subsequent vulnerabilities faced by migrants, and there is some semblance of control as the transaction takes place within Nepal’s jurisdiction. But salaries, associated benefits, and how they are treated all affect the wellbeing of a migrant worker.
Sting operations are good examples to help curb fraudulent activities, particularly as the shrinkage in job opportunities due to Covid-19 heightens the risks of unethical practices. Lack of employment opportunities has spurred unhealthier competition among recruiters and more desperate migrants. But a government reward system that recognises and supports pioneer recruiters opting the ethical route is also needed.
The migrants at the airport last week said they learnt about IMR through word of mouth and Facebook. They were lucky to land these jobs without paying fees because all overseas vacancies in Nepal are posted as ‘no cost’ in the public domain.
The good players in the industry need to be publicly recognised, provided training opportunities and other incentives that will help them attract both employers and migrants. Only then can they distinguish themselves from the lot, build credibility and lead the way.
Upasana Khadka writes this column Labour Mobility every month in Nepali Times analysing trends affecting Nepal’s workers abroad.