FIRST (Fair international recruitment against slavery and trafficking) Project

The FIRST project is an exploratory project that will develop and test strategies and tools to reduce instances of exploitative working conditions, particularly forced labour and debt bondage, experienced by Vietnamese women and men migrant workers.

Project at a glance

  • Implementing partners: International Labour Organisation (ILO), International Organization for Migration (IOM), Responsible Business Alliance (RBA)
  • Main partners: RBA’s Responsible Labor Initiative (RLI) member companies, Ministry of Labour, Invalids, and Social Affairs (MOLISA), Vietnamese Association for Manpower Agencies (VAMAS)
  • Target beneficiaries: Vietnamese women and men migrant workers, recruitment agencies, employers, employer associations
  • Geographical focus: Viet Nam, migrant worker destination countries

Project context

About 1.5 million people enter the Vietnamese labour market each year. The Government of Viet Nam recognizes the important nexus between migration, employment and poverty reduction and considers labour migration an important development opportunity. In 2018, the Department of Overseas Labor (DOLAB) reported over 142,860 migrant workers (37 per cent women) deployed overseas, mainly to Japan (68,737), Taiwan, China (60,369), Republic of Korea (6,538), Saudi Arabia (1,920) and Malaysia (1,120). The majority of Vietnamese workers migrating overseas do so using recruitment and placement agencies. However, there are also a rising number of Vietnamese workers migrating irregularly.

The recruitment model in Viet Nam often requires job seekers to pay various costs for their recruitment. However, excessive recruitment and deposit fees can create situations of debt bondage that add to migrant workers’ vulnerability before, during and after migration. Limitations in legislation, coupled with inadequate enforcement allow unethical and illegal recruitment practices to persist in Viet Nam. These practices create an environment in which labour exploitation can lead to to human trafficking, including forced labour.

Project objectives

ILO, IOM and RBA have launched a 12-month inception phase to develop and test strategies that aim to reduce instances of exploitative working conditions, particularly forced labour and debt bondage, experienced by Vietnamese women and men migrant workers. The project will support strengthening existing regulatory frameworks, test models and appetite for ethical recruitment, and seek to improve Vietnamese migrant workers’ access to complaint mechanisms.

The inception phase will create opportunities for ethical recruitment agencies to link to actors in the global supply chain which aim at a fair recruitment model, fostering opportunities to increase a better understanding of needs on both sides of the recruitment process.

Project main activities

  • Map and engage relevant stakeholders to establish and formalise a network of ethical recruitment actors in Viet Nam;
  • Conduct research and technical assessments to identify gaps in existing processes to support partners to strengthen existing regulatory frameworks;
  • Seek to strengthen the complaints mechanism and access to justice for migrant workers;
  • Develop tools and training programmes to inform future investment in mutual monitoring and audit of recruitment and supply chains.

Contact information

International Labour Organization
Jane Hodge
Project Manager / Technical Officer

International Organization for Migration
Anastasia Vynnychenko
Project Officer

Responsible Business Alliance
Khai Yau Chua
Senior Program Manager