Our early programming in Vietnam led to learnings about forced labor of migrant workers in five key categories.

What we learned in our first programs in Vietnam

  • Domestic Work
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  • Ethical Recruitment
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    Between 2018-2020, GFEMS funded research and advocacy efforts focused on labor migration from Vietnam. These efforts were carried out in partnership with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the International Labour Organization (ILO), the University of Massachusetts Lowell, and the Responsible Business Alliance.

    This briefing presents summarized findings from across these efforts and represents inputs from a range of labor migration stakeholders including government agencies, private sector entities, labor recruiters, service providers, and, crucially, migrant workers and their families. Collectively, these quantitative and qualitative insights find commonality in their emphasis of five key areas:

    1. Recruitment fees and associated debt among migrant workers
    2. Deceptive recruitment practices and significant exit penalties
    3. Lack of effective grievance mechanisms for workers
    4. Importance of regulatory reform surrounding migrant recruitment
    5. Opportunities for private sector commitment to ethical recruitment

    Select Key Learnings

    The findings showed that 13.65% of the sample experienced indicators synonymous with labor trafficking.

    If the ratio of these findings were extrapolated to the overall number of migrant workers who were employed overseas during the same time period (274,890 workers to Taiwan and 107,975 workers to Japan), it is likely that forced labor conditions would have affected tens of thousands of Vietnamese migrants who worked in these countries.

    Deceptive recruitment practices perpetrated on Vietnamese migrant workers begin pre-departure and often carry over to destination.

    Worker response to both the IOM and UMass Lowell studies revealed that in a number of cases, parts of the recruitment fees and costs were significantly deducted from migrant workers’ salary during employment, exacerbating situations of indebtedness and debt bondage.

    Select Recommendations

    It is critical for government agencies to provide clear and regularly updated information to prospective migrant workers on the different costs and fees involved in migrating to different destinations and sectors, using a range of dissemination channels.

    The development and implementation of a regionally contextualized curriculum for prospective migrant workers would help ensure that pre- departure trainings are comprehensive and include modules related to forced labor risks, working conditions, worker rights at destination, and avenues for grievance reporting and recourse.

    Expand private sector engagement to ensure suppliers and recruiters adhere to ethical recruitment and fair labor standards.

    Industry stakeholders should move toward “zero-fee” policies that are enshrined in formal, enforceable written agreements between buyers and suppliers, as well as between suppliers and their recruitment partners. Buyers and facilities should conduct regular and rigorous due diligence to determine whether workers are being required to pay recruitment fees or recruitment-related expenses, such as visa-processing or work permit fees. Companies need to exert top-down pressure on supply chains and mandate fair and ethical labor sourcing, employment practices, and working conditions.

    For full findings and recommendations, download the briefing.

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