Fair foreign employment process and good practices discussed through policy measures to reduce exploitation and vulnerabilities of foreign migrant workers in Pakistan

ILO in collaboration with the Ministry of Overseas Pakistani and Human Resource Development (MOP&HRD) and Department of Labour Baluchistan and constituents, hosted a policy dialogue in Quetta to identify the pathways to promote fair recruitment for foreign migrant workers and minimize the role of subagents/intermediaries in foreign employment recruitment in Pakistan.

Press release | Quetta, Pakistan | 15 February 2022
QUETTA (ILO News): The International Labour Organization (ILO) in collaboration with the Ministry of Overseas Pakistani and Human Resource Development (MOP&HRD) and Department of Labour Baluchistan and constituents, hosted a policy dialogue in Quetta to identify the pathways to promote fair recruitment for foreign migrant workers and minimize the role of subagents/intermediaries in foreign employment recruitment in Pakistan.

The participants deliberated on the key challenges encountered by Pakistani migrant workers during foreign employment process and discussed a set of policy recommendations including endorsement of the National Emigration and Welfare Policy; as relatedly increasing the number of Overseas Employment Promoters (OEPs) and their outreach as a basis for minimizing the role of sub-agents in recruitment processes.

A total of 28 senior delegates participated in the event, representing the Ministry of Overseas Pakistani and Human Resources Development (MOP&HRD) and Department of Labour Balochistan, Balochistan Police, Protectorate of Emigrants Office (PEO) Quetta, Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), Balochistan Technical Education & Vocational Training Authority (BTEVTA), Balochistan University of Information Technology, Engineering and Management Sciences (BUITEMS), Pakistan Workers Federation (PWF), Trade Unions, Pakistan Overseas Employment Promoters Association (POEPA), UNDP, UN Women and civil society organisations.

While opening the dialogue, Mr Saghir Bukhari, the Senior Program Officer-ILO Country Office for Pakistan shared the background and objectives of a series of dialogues, intended to promote fair recruitment of Pakistani migrant workers for foreign employment. He invited the participants to deliberate on measures to reduce the exploitation of Pakistani migrant workers and to provide them easy and simplified procedures to access decent work opportunities through migration.

Mr Ishrat Ali, the Federal Secretary of the Ministry of Overseas Pakistani and Human Resource Development (MOP&HRD) highlighted that despite formal institutional structures, systems and mechanisms in Pakistan, the role of sub-agents or unregistered intermediaries in recruitment process is a matter of concern. He emphasized the need for social partners to enhance their role in creating wider awareness and outreach of licensed OEPs. He stated that the Ministry would expand the overseas employment promotors network in order to minimise the role of sub-agents in foreign employment recruitment processes.

Mr Pervaiz Umrani, the Assistant Inspector-General (AIG) of the Balochistan Police highlighted the challenges faced by migrant workers; He highlighted the need for a database of service providers as one of the measures to curb human smuggling. Mr Umrani further emphasized the need to address irregular migration through formal channels of foreign employment promoters and extended his department’s cooperation in this regard.

Mr Shabarinath Nair, the Labour Migration Specialist for South Asia emphasised that the Global Compact of Migration, which was adopted and endorsed by Government of Pakistan, highlights the importance of “people centered approach” for migration. In this regard, it is vital for various stakeholders, including recruiters, trade unions, employers and government to work together to promote safe and fair recruitment process. He also mentioned that, in terms of ILO’s general principles and guidelines regarding fair recruitment processes, labour recruiters are required to clearly include terms and conditions in the employment agreement of a migrant worker.

Ms Nansiri Iamsuk, the Programme Specialist – Migration in the UN Women Regional Office for Asia highlighted the challenges and risks faced by women migrant workers in the migration cycle. Ms Iamsuk also highlighted the need to put in place measures to increase women’s access to safe migration and decent work and reduce their vulnerabilities during the recruitment process.

Mr Shahzad Ahmed, the National Project Officer of the ILO’s GOALS Project, shared the key findings of “Recruitment agency business practices and role of intermediaries in the foreign employment industry in Pakistan” study, conducted the ILO-REFRAME project. This research reaffirmed the vital role that informal channels, such as friends and relatives, play in the growth and expansion of overseas migration networks and key recommendations of this study were shared with the delegates.

The session concluded with a joint commitment to advocate the fair recruitment practices across the country, and a request to the Federal Government of Pakistan to finalize and implement the National Emigration and Welfare Policy, in order to protect the rights of Pakistani migrant workers.

The event was organised under the "Governance of Labour Migration in South and South-East Asia (GOALS)” which is a Joint Regional Programme between the International Labour Organization (ILO), International Organization for Migration (IOM) and The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).