Round Table: Enhancing Protection of Migrant Workers in Asia Through Responsible Recruitment and Employment Practices

The round table brought together 21 stakeholders representing international buyers, their suppliers in Asia, as well as international and diplomatic community to discuss vulnerabilities of migrant workers in international supply chains associated with unethical recruitment and employment practices and identify ways to address them.

IOM-amfori roundtable report

Well managed migration has the potential to contribute to poverty alleviation, human development of workers, families and communities, and economic growth in countries of origin and destination. Conversely, when ill-managed with inadequate regulation of migration corridors and unchecked unscrupulous business practices, migrants active in global supply chains remain highly vulnerable.

Globally, there are more than 40 million victims of modern slavery found in almost all economic sectors and often hidden in plain sight. According to estimates by the Walk Free Foundation, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), 24,9 million people were in a situation of forced labour in 2017. Forced labour prevalence is highest in Asia and the Pacific, where four out of every 1,000 people were victims. According to ILO this generates USD 150 billion annually in illegal profits in the private economy. 

These estimates also showed that almost one fourth of the victims of forced labour are international migrant workers. South-East Asia and the Pacific host more than 25 million migrant workers, of these 13,6 per cent are women migrant workers. In this context, migrant workers remain highly vulnerable due to unethical recruitment practices such as the charging of excessive recruitment fees, document retention and inaccurate or deceptive information on job terms and conditions. 

During employment, migrant workers may be subject to contract substitution, restrictions on freedom of movement and association, unlawful wage deductions, difficulties to access effective grievance mechanisms and remediation, debt repayment, and social and cultural isolation. The interlinkage between these issues creates an exploitation continuum that can trap migrant workers into situations of forced labour.

According to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, business has a responsibility to respect workers’ rights and remedy any violations. The OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises also provide comprehensive guidance for responsible business conduct, one which governments have committed to promoting. Recognizing its potential to drive positive change towards safe and beneficial labour migration, the private sector is a key partner in achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Global Compact for Migration (GCM). 

The requirements under the UK Modern Slavery Act, the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act, as well as due diligence laws in force in France and the Netherlands have spurred companies to identify key geographic and sectoral risk factors linked to the specific vulnerabilities of migrant workers. If found or suspected of forced labour, companies face increasing risks of fines or ban on imports. In September 2019, the United States authorities have detained products suspected of being produced using forced labour from five countries. As a result, many companies have taken action to mitigate risks.

In light of these developments, it is important to raise awareness among businesses on modern slavery and forced labour in global labour supply chains and what they can do to adopt more responsible business models of recruitment and employment of migrant workers. 

IOM and amfori will hold a roundtable to discuss the risks of labour exploitation linked to unethical recruitment and employment practices and its impact on migrant workers and companies.

The roundtable will provide a platform for participants to:
•    Understand vulnerabilities of migrant workers during recruitment, as well as employment and return
•    Share challenges in addressing the risks of forced labour in business operations and supply chains associated with unethical recruitment and employment practices  
•    Understand good practice employed by the private sector to respond to these risks 
•    Identify opportunities for joint action to accelerate widespread change
•    Produce a summary report with recommendations to relevant stakeholders

This event is by invitation only and limited to 20 participants. The target audience identified includes amfori members and their suppliers in Asia, international organizations, diplomatic missions and civil society.




13.30 – 14.00


14.00 – 14.15

Welcome remarks by IOM and amfori

Mark Brown, Officer in Charge | IOM Viet Nam

Stephanie Luong, Vice President for Public Affairs | amfori

14.15 – 14.45

Overview of Labour Migration in Asia: Challenges and Risks in Labour Supply Chains

Maximillian Pottler, Project Manager | IOM Viet Nam

14.45 – 16.00

Tour de Table: sharing of experiences, ongoing initiatives and challenges

All participants, moderated by amfori

16.00 – 17.00

Group discussion: identifying opportunities for action, recommendations to relevant stakeholders and way forward

All participants, moderated by IOM

17.00 – 17.15

Concluding remarks

IOM and amfori

17.15 – 18.00


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