Labour migration

ILO commits to support Viet Nam’s effort to promote safe labour migration

The on-going revision of the Law on Contract-Based Vietnamese Overseas Workers can be an opportunity to ensure that Vietnamese migrant workers will be globally sought-after by responsible employers, and their rights will be protected in accordance with international labour standards.

Press release | 10 June 2020
HANOI (ILO News) – The International Labour Organization (ILO) welcomes Viet Nam’s positive steps to make labour migration safer and more profitable for Vietnamese migrant workers in legislation.

The draft revised Law on Contract-Based Vietnamese Overseas Workers (Law 72) was discussed at the National Assembly on 10 June. When passed at the next sitting in October 2020, the revision will affect the lives of hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese migrant workers, their families and communities, and have an impact on future development of migration and economic modernization of Viet Nam.

“Explicit prohibition of specific categories of recruitment fees and related costs in legislation is important,” Director of the ILO in Viet Nam, Chang-Hee Lee, said. “When migrant workers pay high fees and costs, and obtain high-interest loans to fund migration, they are more vulnerable to abuse, exploitation, debt bondage, forced labour and human trafficking. Therefore, the development benefits of labour migration cannot be fully realized.”

The ILO’s Private Employment Agencies Convention No. 181 and ILO’s General principles and operational guidelines for fair recruitment state that “workers shall not be charged directly or indirectly, in whole or in part, any fees or related costs for their recruitment” and that “prospective employers, public or private, or their intermediaries, and not the workers, should bear the cost of recruitment.”

Viet Nam currently has high recruitment fees and related costs set in legislation. According to a new ILO study, the current fee and cost structures are not well understood by migrant workers and complexity around legal limits prevents them from knowing if they are being overcharged.

When migrant workers pay high fees and costs, and obtain high-interest loans to fund migration, they are more vulnerable to abuse, exploitation, debt bondage, forced labour and human trafficking."

Chang-Hee Lee, Director of the ILO in Viet Nam
The study demonstrates that charging migrant workers over the legally set ceilings appears to be a common practice. Some interviewees reported paying between VND163 million and 372 million (US$7,000-16,000) to be able to work in Japan and Taiwan, China, much higher than legally set limits. Developing regular migration channels in legislation that are less costly, less time-consuming and less complex can tackle issues of overcharging, and may be easier to oversee and enforce.

“Abuses involving debt bondage associated with repayment of recruitment fees can lead to forced labour and human trafficking,” ILO’s Technical Specialist on Labour Migration, Anna Olsen, said.

In a related move, the National Assembly on Monday voted for the ratification of ILO’s fundamental Convention 105 on Abolition of Forced Labour.

“To address risks of forced labour, an adequate national regulatory framework and comprehensive labour migration policies based on international labour standards, are vital,” said Olsen.

According to the specialist, the revision of Law 72 offers an opportunity for Viet Nam to address the demand from numerous leading multinational employers and businesses looking to hire ‘zero fee’ migrant workers who have not paid anything for their recruitment abroad. This will better protect migrant workers and meet international standards.

In 2019, Viet Nam sent more than 152,000 migrant workers abroad, two thirds of whom were men. Japan and Taiwan, China received more than 90 per cent of Viet Nam’s regular migrant workers in the past three years. The Government annually increases national and provincial labour migration targets, and actively promotes labour migration as a means of employment creation, skills improvement and poverty reduction.

“What we hope for Viet Nam is to be able to amplify the development potential of migration. Ensuring the protection of migrant workers’ rights before, during and after labour migration is the best way to do this,” said the head of ILO Viet Nam. “The ILO reiterates its commitment to support the Vietnamese Government to fulfill this important goal.”

Note to the editors

The ILO recommends using the terms “labour migration” or “labour mobility” instead of “labour export” as labour is not a commodity. “Irregular migrant workers”, “migrant workers with irregular status” or “undocumented migrant workers” should also be used instead of “illegal migrant workers.”

Your support of using rights-based language can prevent discrimination against irregular migrant workers and promote social inclusion.