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Viet Nam

Helping recruitment agencies make a difference

The recruitment agency association in Viet Nam is piloting a self-regulatory tool to promote fair competition and better protect migrant workers.

Feature | 18 September 2013
Training session for future migrant workers at a recruitment agency in Hanoi
HANOI (ILO News) – The need to provide services to a rapidly growing and changing labour market has led to a significant growth in the number of recruitment agencies over the past two decades.

The growth of the industry has also meant that there is an increasing need to regulate these companies, both to ensure that they deliver an adequate service and to protect the workers – usually migrant workers – who use them.

Governments are responsible for keeping an eye on recruitment agencies, but companies themselves can help by implementing mechanisms of self-regulation.

In Viet Nam, for example, the Viet Nam Association of Manpower Supply (VAMAS) introduced a Code of Conduct (COC-VN) for recruitment agencies in 2010 with the support of the International Labour Organization (ILO). The COC-VN is a voluntary instrument that aims to improve compliance with Vietnamese legislation and international standards, to promote better business management and to protect migrant workers from exploitative situations, including forced labour.

The COC-VN covers various issues, such as advertising, selection, training, contracts for Vietnamese workers abroad, dispute settlement and helping workers return to Viet Nam. Although it does not replace the government’s monitoring and inspection system, which has the power to sanction agencies, it encourages companies to review and improve existing procedures.

Self-regulation tools can play an important role in raising the bar in the recruitment industry."
In 2011, VAMAS launched a monitoring mechanism to measure the application of the principles of the Code of Conduct.

Last year, a total of twenty companies – responsible for sending almost 30 per cent of Vietnamese workers going abroad – volunteered to be part of the first pilot phase that rated agencies according to their compliance with the COC-VN. Eight of them were listed as “excellent”. Now the evaluation will expand to a total of 50 agencies among the approximately 170 that exist in the country.

“Self-regulation tools can play an important role in raising the bar in the recruitment industry, as they supplement and support Government regulations and the monitoring of recruitment agencies,” said Max Tunon, the coordinator of the ILO’s GMS TRIANGLE project. “This is particularly important for countries, like Viet Nam, that are sending an increasing number of workers abroad.”

According to the Vice Minister of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, Nguyen Thanh Hoa, the COC-VN helps companies to improve their reputation in the eye of workers and foreign partners, while better protecting the rights of migrant workers.

For VAMAS Chairman Nguyen Luong Trao, the COC-VN is “a tool for fair assessment that promotes a healthy competition among enterprises”.

Tran Van Tu, head of the Policy Division at the Viet Nam General Confederation of Labour, said compliance with the Code can help prevent abusive practices in the recruitment processes, thus reducing costs for workers and improving the quality of service that companies offer.

A good model to follow

“Viet Nam is one of the few nations that have successfully introduced a Code of Conduct for recruitment agencies and the experience can become a good model for the region,” said the ILO’s Max Tunon.

Countries like Bangladesh, Cambodia, Lao PDR and Myanmar are considering similar self-regulation tools.

The benefits of this practice have also been recognized by recruitment agencies and workers themselves.

LETCO, an agency based in Hanoi, says it has attracted more clients and international and local partners since it was ranked second among the recruitment agencies.

“Our negotiations with international partners have also become easier when they know we fully comply with COC-VN,” said Bui Kim Son, the company director.

Phung Thi Tram, who consulted the ranking in July when her younger brother was looking for a recruitment agency to help him find work in Japan, was happy that she now had a credible source to rely on.

“It’s important to know which agencies offer good services, otherwise you’ll have to take the risk and might lose your money,” she said.

“Looking ahead, it is important to increase the number of agencies in the ranking,” said Tunon, “and include an independent body to evaluate the companies objectively.”

The latest report by the Viet Nam Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs shows about 80,000 Vietnamese workers are sent abroad every year. Approximately 500,000 workers are working abroad under contract in more than 40 countries. They are expected to send home remittances of US$ 1.8-2 billion in 2013.