Relevant ILO standards

Fair recruitment

In today’s globalized economy, workers are increasingly looking for job opportunities beyond their home country in search of decent work and better livelihoods. In addition, millions of workers migrate internally in search of decent work. Public and private employment agencies, when appropriately regulated, play an important role in the efficient and equitable functioning of labour markets by matching available jobs with suitably qualified workers.

However, concerns have been raised about the growing role of unscrupulous employment agencies, informal labour intermediaries and other operators acting outside the legal and regulatory framework that prey especially on low-skilled workers. Reported abuses involve one or more of the following: deception about the nature and conditions of work; retention of passports; illegal wage deductions; debt bondage linked to repayment of recruitment fees; threats if workers want to leave their employers, coupled with fears of subsequent expulsion from a country. A combination of these abuses can amount to human trafficking and forced labour. Despite the existence of international labour standards relating to recruitment, national laws and their enforcement often fall short of protecting the rights of workers, and migrant workers in particular.

Fair Recruitment Initiative

In his report to the 2014 International Labour Conference, the Director General called for an ILO agenda for fair migration and emphasised the growing concern about abusive and fraudulent recruitment practices affecting migrant workers.

In response to those challenges, the ILO launched a global “Fair Recruitment Initiative” to:
  • help prevent human trafficking and forced labour
  • protect the rights of workers, including migrant workers, from abusive and fraudulent practices during the recruitment process (including pre-selection, selection, transportation, placement and possibility to return)
  • reduce the cost of labour migration and enhance development outcomes for migrant workers and their families, as well as for countries of origin and destination

This multi-stakeholder initiative is implemented in close collaboration with governments, representative employers’ and workers’ organizations, the private sector and other key partners. It is based on a four-pronged approach which puts social dialogue at the centre. The fair recruitment initiative will focus on:
  1. Enhancing global knowledge on national and international recruitment practices
  2. Improving laws, policies and enforcement mechanisms to promote fair recruitment practices
  3. Promoting fair business practices
  4. Empowering and protecting workers


ILO social partners and their affiliates play a central role in the design and implementation of this initiative, including International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and affiliates, and the International Organisation of Employers (IOE) and affiliates, in particular the International Confederation of Private Employment Services (CIETT).

ILO’s Fair Recruitment Initiative is closely coordinated with the Global Migration Group (GMG) and the Inter-Agency Coordination Group against Trafficking in Persons (ICAT) agencies, in particular IOM, World Bank, OHCHR and UNODC.

The initiative is currently supported by the UK Government (Department for International Development), the US Government (State Department and Department of Labor) and the Canadian Government (Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada).