One of the unethical practices in the recruitment process is high recruitment costs being imposed upon migrant workers. A potential migrant may have to pay, on average, 10 times more to secure a job than an employer would have to pay to secure that same worker. The high cost of recruitment and migration is also suspected to have a link with human trafficking, forced labour, debt bondage, and loss of remittances. Inadequate opportunities for regular migration compel many potential migrants to make unfair deals with recruiting agencies, intermediaries, or individual brokers living in the countries of origin and destination.
The cost of recruitment and migration is intricately bound-up with a number of factors. Some stakeholders in the migration process such as recruiting agencies tend to attribute high recruitment and migration costs to market-driven factors (i.e., the demand and supply of labour); others attribute high costs to the lack of adequate regulation in the recruitment sector. A thorough consideration of the recruitment and migration costs incurred by migrant workers, appropriate regulatory system need to be put in place to guide and regulate recruitment for the international labour market.
78 per cent of recruitment and migration cost, on average, is actually incurred by intermediaries and other helpers. These costs turn out to be burdensome on migrants, especially considering their mode of financing. About 67 per cent of migrant workers secure funds to pay for recruitment and migration by taking out loans. Considerable portions of migrant workers also finance the cost of migration by selling land (24 per cent), mortgaging land (23 per cent), and selling assets such as jewellery, cattle, trees, or homes (20 per cent).
One of the reasons behind increasing recruitment and migration cost and the exploitation of migrant workers is the unhealthy competition that exists among recruiting agents and individuals who take part in visa trading in GCC countries. Visa trading creates an extra layer of illegal cost that has to be paid by an illegal sub-agent offering the highest price to the employer who is selling the visa. Another layer of illegal cost is added when that illegal sub-agent, trying to turn a profit his purchase, sells the visa for an even higher price to a recruitment agent or a migrant worker.
ACTUAL COST OF RECRUITMENT AND MIGRATION
It can be estimated that the average Bangladeshi migrant (disregarding the specific country of destination) spends Tk 309,259 for their migration. However, the cost of recruitment and migration for a female migrant is substantially less than that of a male migrant. While women migrants on average spend Tk 188,273, male migrants on average spend Tk 311,301.
Disregarding the gender dimension of recruitment and migration cost, about 42 per cent of all migrants spend between BDT2,81,921 to BDT422,880, which is quite a lot of money in the context of Bangladesh. The Cost of recruitment and migration varies across destination regions. Migrants who went to Middle Eastern countries on an average spend BDT2,81,700.
The cost of recruitment and migration from Bangladesh is quite high, especially considering the economic condition of the migrant workers/potential migrant workers. It also can be surmised that the ideal cost structures suggested by the government are not followed during the migration process.
Under an ideal migration process, migrant workers are not supposed to pay any commission to recruiting agents for getting a job abroad; rather the recruiting agent should get their commission from the employer. In fact, airfare for the potential migrant worker is supposed to be managed by the employer. In this connection, it is essential to explore what factors have led to these exorbitant recruitment and migration costs.
Additionally the most disturbing concern in the irregular migration is the hefty cost of migration.
Migrant workers incur huge number of social & economic costs through labour migration process. Private recruitment agencies recruit the majority of Bangladeshi workers. Moreover, a large number of migrants obtain work permit through unauthorized subagents or intermediaries commonly known as “Dalals”. These dalals lack legal valid documents and approval to migrate workers to a destination country.
Human trafficking, forced labours, debt-bondage and costs of remittance are those few things attributable to high cost of recruitment and migration. Inadequate scope of migration on a regular basis in the market for potential migrants forces them to resort to unlawful deals with intermediaries and recruitment agencies ending up paying hefty migration cost. One of the prime reason underlying increasing recruitment & migration cost is visa trading.
Recruitment agencies compete to buy such visas sold by the so-called employers or Kafeel from the destination country and recover the cost from the potential migrants. Often the worst part is that this will be always in addition to the other costs like service charges, medical fees and even facing the political migrant ending up paying a huge recruitment fees. This is why cost of migration of labour from Bangladesh is considered one of the most expensive in the world. In an average the potential migrant has to bear a recruitment cost of $1950- $3400 dollars.
One of the major factors that make the migrant workers vulnerable to such malpractices is the lack of education and knowledge among migrants. In many cases, migrants are unable to interpret clauses, condition and loopholes of the contracts. In fact majority of migrant workers do not receive even the written contracts during the pre-departure period. In some cases even the recruitment agencies that do not provide adequate information prior to departure do thereby depriving the migrant workers of appropriate knowledge likely to empower them to attain the entitlement they should lawfully hold.
Writer is an international migration expert & GM Bashundhara Employment Services, Qatar.