Migrant workers

Tripartite Action to Protect Migrant Workers within and from the Greater Mekong Subregion from Labour Exploitation (GMS TRIANGLE project)

The GMS TRIANGLE project focused on reducing the exploitation of labour migrants by contributing to the development of legal and safe recruitment channels and improved labour protection mechanisms. It is currently continued through TRIANGLE in ASEAN programme.

The GMS TRIANGLE project, which is continued through TRIANGLE in ASEAN programme, aimed to strengthen the formulation and implementation of recruitment and labour protection policies and practices, to ensure safe migration resulting in decent work. The project was operational in six countries: Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam. In each country, tripartite constituents (government, workers’ and employers’ organizations) were engaged in each of the GMS TRIANGLE project objectives - strengthening policy and legislation, building capacity of stakeholders, and providing services to migrant workers, through Migrant Worker Resource Centres. These goals were interdependent, with policy advocacy and capacity building activities driven by the voices, needs and experiences of workers, employers and service providers.

Key aspects of the GMS TRIANGLE project

Key project achievements

  • Eight ministerial orders were adopted in Cambodia to supplement the Sub-Decree on sending workers abroad.
  • In Thailand, a ministerial regulation on domestic work was adopted, and substantial inputs have been made to the revision of the regulation on work in fishing.
  • Standardized pre-departure training modules adopted in Cambodia and Viet Nam, and under development in Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Myanmar.
  • In six countries, trade unions have adopted action plans to enhance their role in the protection of migrant workers.
  • 50 Vietnamese recruitment agencies are being ranked according to their compliance with an industry Code of Conduct.
  • In the six countries, 38,422 migrants and potential migrants, 41 per cent of who were women, have received counselling, legal assistance, training or joined networks or trade unions.
  • US$1.2 million has been ordered as compensation for migrant worker complainants in countries of origin and destination.
To date, the GMS TRIANGLE project has provided services to over 51,000 workers, potential migrant workers, and members of their families, and assisted in the formulation of better policies to protect migrant workers. The GMS TRIANGLE project is committed to mainstreaming gender throughout project implementation; and has been successful in achieving a good gender balance - with 41 per cent of project beneficiaries being women. Given the high proportion of migrant workers engaged in fishing and domestic work, the project has a particular focus on these sectors. The results achieved with the support of the Australian Government aid program are summarised here.

The Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) and neighbouring countries comprise one of the world’s most dynamic migration hubs. There are well over two million migrants in both Thailand and Malaysia, and the number of migrants from Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, and Viet Nam continues to rise. The structure of the economies and demographic evolution is driving the need for low-skilled workers in labour-intensive jobs; and established chain migration links match this demand with a steady supply of migrants attracted by the wage differential.

As the number of women and men migrants within and from the GMS grows, so do the opportunities for unscrupulous job brokers and employers to take advantage of them. Studies into the living and working conditions of low-skilled migrants in the region reveals that indicators of abuse commonly associated with labour exploitation are widespread. These indicators include high recruitment costs; deception about wages, type of work and legal status; withheld wages; retained passports or identity documents; physical confinement; substandard working conditions; and threats of denunciation to the authorities.