Promoting Safe Migration from Pakistan: Pakistan Overseas Employment Promoters Association launches a Code of Conduct on Ethical Recruitment

Pakistan Overseas Employment Promoters Association (POEPA) today took a historical step towards ensuring fair and ethical recruitment of migrant workers, when the industry launched its first ever Code of Conduct on Ethical Recruitment. The launch was made in the presence of 350 representatives from private recruitment agencies. The Code of Conduct on Ethical Recruitment was developed with support by the ILO South Asia Labour Migration Governance Project.

Press release | Islamabad, Pakistan | 22 June 2016
ISLAMABAD (ILO News): Pakistanis can legally pursue overseas employment through two modalities, either through a public or private overseas employment promoter or through “direct” employment, by which an individual makes an employment arrangement on their own or through a friend or relative working abroad. Today, about 58 percent of all Pakistani migrant workers find employment abroad with the help of a private overseas employment promoter and it is clear that these actors play a pivotal role to promote Pakistani manpower abroad and match workers with suitable employment opportunities.

Private overseas employment promoters are licensed by the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource development (MoOP&HRD). However, these licenses are no guarantee that every promoter apply ethical recruitment practices; it is well known that malpractices (including high costs and fees, failure to meet placement obligations and contract substitution) are fairly common among overseas promoters.

Recognizing that these challenges persists within the private recruitment sector, the Pakistan Overseas Employment Promoters Association (POEPA), the representative body of private overseas employment promoters in Pakistan, has developed a Code of Conduct on Ethical Recruitment (hereafter referred to as the Code of Ethical Conduct) as the industry’s self-regulation and monitoring programme. The Code of Ethical Conduct is applicable to all its members and was developed with support from the ILO South Asia Labour Migration Governance Project, a project that is supported by the European Union. Pakistan’s third Decent Work Country Program (DWCP) 2016-2020 highlights the importance of improved governance of labour migration and recognises the recruitment industry as an important stakeholder. The ILO join hands with all stakeholders to protect the rights of migrant workers and promote safe migration from Pakistan.

Talking at the launching ceremony of the Code of Ethical Conduct earlier today, Chaudhry Muhammad Afzal, Central Chairman, Pakistan Overseas Employment Promoters Association said that the Code of Ethical Conduct was developed to promote ethical recruitment practices in Pakistan. He stressed that “the Code of Ethical Conduct will be our guide to do things right in our business“. Mr Afzal pointed out that “private recruitment agencies are contributing a lot to the development of Pakistan by promoting our manpower abroad, which in turn generates a significant inflow of remittances to the country“. He emphasized that “the major aim and objective of implementation of this Code of Ethical Conduct is to identify un-ethical practices in our trade and to establish guidelines and procedures on fair and ethical business practices applicable to all POEPA members. The compliance with the new ethical business practices outlined in the code, will ensure a good reputation of the recruitment industry in the eyes of every segment of our society”.

Mr Aqeel Awan, Member of Pakistan Overseas Employment Promoters Association (POEPA) provided a comprehensive overview of the objectives of the Code of Ethical Conduct and outlined the key steps in its implementation. Mr Awan said that “the Code provides industry-wide principles for ethical recruitment, promotes self-accountability and regulates the conduct of overseas employment promoters with ethical standards that comply with the Emigration Ordinance and Emigration Rules, 1979“. Mr Awan explained that “the Code of Ethical Conduct is based on international and regional good practices and commitments on fair recruitment including ILO and other UN instruments; industry specific models such as the Code of Conduct on Ethical Recruitment developed by the International Confederation of Private Employment Services (CIETT), and work done under the regional Overseas Employment Service Providers Alliance of Asian Associations. The key principles of the Code of Ethical Conduct include promotion of highest business standards in all components of the recruitment process including job advertisement, protection and welfare of workers, skills training, handling of complaints and disputes, job seekers and customer care and partnership development“.

Mr Awan also shared a separate plan outlining how the Code of Ethical Conduct will be implemented; a plan that includes training, monitoring and reporting and stressed that “POEPA will establish a compliance committee that will collect implementation reports from each OEP and will compile it into an annual report“. He said that “in the event a member is found guilty of gross misconduct, POEPA will have the authority to suspend the violator’s membership in the association and can recommend that the Bureau of Emigration and Overseas Pakistanis cancel their business license“.

Ms Ingrid Christensen, Country Director, International Labour Organization (ILO) Country Office for Pakistan, congratulated the POEPA on this achievement. Speaking at the event, she explained that “in today’s globalized economy, workers are increasingly looking for job opportunities beyond their home country. Labour migration in Asia largely occurs under temporary migration regimes and for less skilled work. By matching available jobs in countries of destination with qualified workers in countries of origin, public and private employment agencies have an important role in this quest. At the same time concerns have been raised about the growing role of unscrupulous employment agencies, informal labour intermediaries and other operators acting outside the legal and regulatory framework. Despite the existence of international labour standards relating to recruitment, national laws and their enforcement often fall short of protecting the rights of migrant workers.“ Ms Christensen stressed that “the Code of Ethical Conduct is a strategic component of the attempts of the Pakistani private recruitment industry to regulate the conduct of all its members through an industry-wide self-regulation and monitoring initiative; all with the aim to ensure fair recruitment”.

For further information please contact:

Ms Sadia Hameed
National Project Coordinator (SALM Project)
ILO Country Office for Pakistan