INTERNATIONAL MIGRATION FOR EMPLOYMENT
International Labour Office, Geneva
MIG WP 12
INTERNATIONAL MIGRATION FOR EMPLOYMENT
RECRUITMENT PRACTICES AND WORKING
AND LIVING CONDITIONS OF ASIAN MIGRANT
WORKERS IN THE MIDDLE EAST:
PROBLEMS AND POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS
Note: This is a working paper issued by the International
Migration for Employment Branch. It is circulated
informally in a limited number of copies to stimulate
discussion and critical comment. It is restricted and
should not be cited without permission.
Q International Labour Organisation, 1984
The designations of countries employed, which are in conformity
with United Nations practices, and the presentation of the
material in this paper do not imply the expression of any opinion
whatsoever on the part of the International Labour Office
concerning the legal status of any country or territory or of
its authorities, or concerning the deliminations of its frontiers.
The responsibility for opinions expressed in ILO working papers
rests solely with their authors, and their circulation does not
in any way constitute an endorsement by the International Labour
Office of the opinions expressed in them.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A. FOREWORD, by W.R. Bbhning ..................................... iii
B. RECRUITMENT PRACTICES AND WORKING AND LIVING CONDITIONS
OF ASIAN MIGRANT WORKERS IN THE MIDDLE EAST: PROBLEMS
AND POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS, by Z. Zar ............................. 1
I. PREFACE. ................................................... 2
PART One FOREIGN EMPLOYMENT AND EMIGRATION ADMINISTRATION AND
PROCEDURES ................................................ 2
II.. INTRODUCTION .............................................. 2
III. TYPES OF MIGRATION ....................................... 3
(a) Group or block visa migration ......................... 3
(b) Individual visa migration .................. ......... 5
(c) Migration on a government to government basis ........ 6
(d) Migration of employees of migrant-sending countries'
firms or companies ................................... 6
IV. ADMINISTRATIVE RESPONSIBILITY, CONTROL AND REGULATION OF
EMIGRATION FOR EMPLOYMENT ABROAD .......................... 6
(a) Public sector recruitment ................... ......... 6
(b) Private sector recruitment .................. ....... 7
(c) Individual or direct recruitment ...................... 7
V. PROTECTIVE AND REGULATORY MEASURES ADOPTED BY MIGRANT-
SENDING COUNTRIES ........................................ 7
VI. PROTECTIVE AND REGULATORY MEASURES ADOPTED BY MIGRANT-
RECEIVING COUNTRIES ...................................... 11
PART Two EXPLOITATIVE PRACTICES RELATING TO MIGRANTS' WORKING
AND LIVING CONDITIONS .................................... 13
VII. PROBLEMS ARISING IN THE COUNTRIES OF ORIGIN .............. 13
VIII. PROBLEMS OF WORK AND LIFE IN THE COUNTRY OF EMPLOYMENT ... 17
(a) Contract substitution ................................ 18
(b) Withdrawal of passports and other travel documents ... 19
(c) Breach of employment contract ........................ 19
(d) Occupational safety and health ........................ 22
(e) Social security ................................ :'..... 22
(f) Social and family problems ........................... 22
(g) Postal and remittance facilities ..................... 23
(h) Illegal and clandestine migration .................... 23
IX. PROBLEMS FACED BY LOCAL AUTHORISED RECRUITERS AND FOREIGN
EMPLOYERS WISHING TO RECRUIT ASIAN MANPOWER .............. 24
- ii -
PART three COMBATING RECRUITMENT MALPRACTICES AND IMPROVING
WORKING AND LIVING CONDITIONS .......................... 25
X. ACTION AT THE NATIONAL LEVEL: MIGRANT SENDING
COUNTRIES .............................................. 25
XI. ACTION AT THE BI-LATERAL LEVEL ......................... 31
XII. ACTION AT THE SUB-REGIONAL LEVEL ........................ 34
XIII. ACTION AT THE REGIONAL AND GLOBAL LEVELS ............... 35
XIV. REFERENCES CITED ....................................... 37
C. INTERNATIONAL MIGRATION FOR EMPLOYMENT WORKING PAPERS ......... 38
- iii -
This is a working paper of the ILO's International Migration for
Employment Branch. The objectives of the Branch are to contribute to
(1) the evaluation, formulation and application of international migration
policies suited to the economic and social aims.of governments, employers'
and workers' organizations, and (2) the increase in equality of opportunity
and treatment of migrants and the protection of their rights and dignity.
Its means of action are (a) research and reports, (b) technical advisory
services, (c) technical co-operation, (d) meetings and (e) work concerned
with international labour standards. The Branch also collects, analyses
and disseminates relevant information and acts as the information source for
ILO constituents, ILO units and other interested parties.
Mrs. Zar, who was formerly importantly involved in the recruitment of
Pakistani workers for Middle Eastern countries of employment, analyses in
this paper the shortcomings of the procedures that were set up in some
haste and without much experience to fall back on after the 1973 rise in oil
prices in both the migrants' countries of origin and their countries of
employment. Her study extends to practically all Asian countries supplying
labour to the Middle East and which, with the possible exception of the
Republic of Korea, have encountered more or less the same problems that
are described with a great deal of insight in this paper. Mrs. Zar, however,
does not stop at explaining what is wrong with the current system and why.
She goes on to suggest, throughout the analysis and particularly in Part Three,
what could be done to remedy situations of which too many migrants have become
victims and many more will undoubtedly become victims in the future unless
appropriate measures are taken at the national, bilateral and multilateral
May 1984 W.R. Bbhning
B. RECRUITMENT PRACTICES AND WORKING
AND LIVING CONDITIONS OF ASIAN MIGRANT WORKERS
IN THE MIDDLE EAST:
PROBLEMS AND POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS
Zuleka Zar *
(Deputy Chief, Manpower
Pincipal NILAT, Labour
Defence Society, Karachi
Note: This paper has been prepared by the author in her private capacity
and under her own responsibility. The views expressed are not
necessarily those of the Government of Pakistan.
- 2 -
The main objective of this paper is to assess the working and living con-
ditions of Asian migrant workers in the Middle East and to consider possibilities
for improvement of these conditions.
The analysis that follows is based on data and information collected
through primary and secondary sources, which included a small sample survey of
migrants in one of the Asian labour supplying countries; information collected
from key informants including Government officials, recruiters, employers, migrant
workers and researchers in the Asian labour supplying and receiving countries in
the public and private sectors; laws and regulations, governmental acts and rules,
research reports of national and international agencies, media reports, articles,
proceedings of seminars, conferences and statistical compilations.
Due to the unavoidable time lag in the collection of data and preparation of
the report, it is possible that the current position in respect of a particular
question may have changed
PART One FOREIGN EMPLOYMENT AND EMIGRATION -
ADMINISTRATION AND PROCEDURES
Since the beginning of the oil boom in the early seventies the Middle East
has witnessed massive inflows of migrant workers of diverse ethnic origins.
Over the past fourteen years not only have their annual flows increased dramati-
cally, but also their cumulative stocks have grown greatly. Bangladesh, India,
Indonesia, the Republic of Korea, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri-Lanka and
Thailand account for the largest part of the Asian contract workers. Over the
last few years employment of Chinese expatriate workers in some countries of the
Middle East has also picked up.
Reliable data on the trends of this temporary migration for employment, its
pattern, size and characteristics are at present rather limited. The most up-to-
date and comprehensive set of statistics is contained in the "Demographic and
related socio-economic data sheets" of the United Nations Economic Commission for
Western Asia (ECWA, for an earlier comprehensive set of estimates see Birks and
Sin.clair, 1980). Table 1 contains the labour force data.
Table 1: Distribution of labour force of selected Middle Eastern countries,
National Non-national % non-national
Country Total 1980 1980 1980 to total
Bahrain 118,694 54,070 64,624 54.4
Kuwait 453,128 110,788 342,340 75.6
Oman 302,972 190,308 112,664 37.2
Qatar 129,696 13,778 115,918 89.4
Saudi Arabia 2,375,141 1,250,297 1,124,844 47.4
U.A.E. 537,586 50,321 487,275 90.6
Source: ECWA Demographic and related Socio-economic Data Sheets.
- 3 -
The recent fall in oil revenues in Arab oil exporting countries resulted in
considerable slowing down of the pace of economic development and project imple-
mentation in the Middle East. This in turn is affecting the demand for migrant
workers, which has reportedly dropped significantly since 1983 in some countries.
In addition, the completion of the construction phase in many of these countries
has led to the redundancy of a large number of migrants in the construction and
unskilled categories. Not only is the demand for migrant workers diminishing,
but also its pattern is changing in favour of operational, maintenance, highly
skilled and professional manpower. Another reason for the drop in demand for
migrant workers is the process of Arabization which is gaining momentum and which
has started a considerable replacement of non-Arab workers by nationals or non-
nationals from other Arab countries.
The shrinking Middle East labour market for non-Arab workers is leading to
stiff competition among labour supplying countries and resulting in the prolifera-
tion of malpractices in the field of recruitment and employment. The shrinking
foreign demand and the growing urge among Asians to secure employment in the
Middle Eastern countries on any terms and conditions makes them more susceptible
to exploitative practices by recruiters and employers. Workers already employed
in the Middle East who are coming to the end of their work contracts, make frantic
efforts to stick to their jobs or secure new jobs, whatever the terms and conditions
III. TYPES OF MIGRATION
Temporary contract migration of Asian workers for employment in the Middle
East that is taking place in accordance with the law can be classified under the
following broad categories:
migration under group or block visa arrangements;
migration under individual visa arrangements;
migration on a government to government basis, either under group or
under individual visa arrangements;
migration of employees of home country firms/companies executing
turn-key or labour contract projects in the Middle East.
(a) Group or block visa migration
Migration under group or block visa arrangements refers to groups of migrant
workers to be admitted in the receiving country.under a single authorisation or
on behalf of a single employer. It is often termed block visa migration, collec-
tive contract migration or project-tied migration. Group visa permissions are
issued by the concerned governmental agencies of the countries of employment in
response to applications made by local employers, foreign firms working in colla-
boration with local employers, multinational enterprises or firms having contracts
or sub-contracts in the migrant-receiving countries and wishing to employ non-
national manpower in bulk for their projects in these countries. The permission
- 4 -
that is issued in the form of a single group authorisation specifies the number
of workers to be employed, their categories and, in some cases, the countries
from which they can be imported. The names of the workers are not mentioned
in the group visa permission. From the same authorisation an employer
can issue separate Powers of Attornies to a number of agents representing him
or his sub-contractors for import of manpower through various agencies in the
migrant-sending countries. Processing of group visas is handled in the labour-
exporting countries by licensed or authorised recruiting agents or authority
holders under supervision of the Government. These agents or authority holders
are appointed by the foreign employers to process recruitment on their behalf
through an authenticated Power of Attorney.
The recruiting agents of overseas employment promoters or authority holders
in the labour supplying countries have to deposit fixed amounts of cash security
or a Bank guarantee with the governments. They also have to pay to obtain a
regular recruiting agent's licence or temporary permission for recruitment of
workers going abroad as contractual migrant labour. Licences to regular recrui-
ters as well as the temporary permissions are issued by the Government only
if the recruiters fulfill prescribed terms and conditions. These include a
favourable report about the antecedents of the recruiter including moral character
and business reputation. Only after fully satisfying itself about their honesty,
reliability and clean record, does the Government grant them a licence as Recruit-
ing Agent or Overseas Employment Promotor.
Once the licence is granted the recruiters are authorised to recruit, process
and despatch migrant workers, according to specified procedures, to their prin-
cipals or business associates in the migrant-receiving countries. In some coun-
tries these licences have to be renewed every year, for which a renewal fee is
charged. Renewal is generally accorded on the basis of the previous years'
After receipt of an authenticated Power of Attorney and a demand letter
from his principal specifying the number and categories of workers required,
the authorised recruiting agent or overseas employment promoter submits his
group visa request to the relevant government agency for approval. After receipt
of approval he advertises the jobs in the newspapers, invites applications, short-
lists the candidates, interviews and selects the required number of persons.
He also tests their qualifications when required by the employer. He assists
the selected candidates in obtaining medical clearance by authorised doctors
or hospitals. He also helps them in the completion of the required documenta-
tion and formalities and then signs a foreign service agreement or contract with
the employee on behalf of the employer. The foreign service agreement or contract
contains the terms and conditions of his employment, which must conform to
existing regulations in both the migrant-sending and migrant-receiving country.
Once all the processing is done he submits the passports of the recruitees along
with a list of the recruitees, the visa permission and other necessary documents
to the Consulates or foreign Missions concerned for visa endorsement. When visas
are endorsed on the workers' passports, the agent or promoter obtains emigration
and other clearance for them from the migrant-sending countries' authorities.
- 5 -
Finally, he arranges their ticketing and travel and despatches them. For the
services rendered, hs is paid a fixed commission mutually agreed between him and
the foreign employer. This is in addition to the actual processing and other
charges paid to him by his principal. In some sending countries the recruiting
agent is also allowed to receive a prescribed fee from the recruitees. If, how-
ever, he charges the recruitees in excess of the legally prescribed fee, he
is liable to be punished under existing laws. If his activities give rise to
irregularities or malpractices and these are detected, his licence is liable
to be suspended or cancelled. In some countries he may also be punished.
(b) Individual visa migration
Individual visas, which are sometimes termed direct employment visas or
Azad visas, are sent or provided by foreign employers to the selected worker
in his country of origin.
On the basis of an application made by local employers or heads of family,
the Government of the labour-importing country issues visa permission to the
employers to import directly the required number of workers, individually or
collectively, from sending countries. The visa permission specifies the names
of the selected workers and their occupations. Individual visas are generally
issued for a limited number of workers only. In some migrant-sending countries,
if the number of individual visas under the same visa permission exceeds five
or twenty, these are regarded as group visas and have to be processed through
a licenced recruiting agent.
In individual visa cases the name of the worker, his occupation and other
details are mentioned in the visa document. In addition to the visa permission
the foreign employer also sends a Foreign Service Agreement or contract specifying
terms and conditions of employment to the worker. This must be duly attested
by the authorised Government agencies, such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Labour or the Chamber of Commerce
and Industry of the country of employment, as well as the Foreign Missions of
the sending country located in the country of origin.
A worker who is to be recruited under the individual visa procedure does
not necessarily have to be selected after due interview and trade testing. He
receives his foreign service contract, duly signed by the foreign employer and
authenticated by the employing country's authorities, and the visa permission
in his home country. He then takes his case in his own hands and completes the
documentation and other formalities which include obtaining the endorsement of
a visa in his passport and the clearance of the Protector or Commissioner of
Emigrants or whatever other official clearance may be required. He may also
have to arrange the travel himself. Licensed recruiting agents do not handle
such cases. In case of individual or direct employment visas, the employment
is arranged through the assistance of a relative or friend working abroad or
sometimes through the migrant's own efforts. He may have directly applied to
the employer and be selected on the basis of his application or after a regular
interview by the employer, either in his home country or the country of employ-
ment. Usually, semi-skilled and unskilled workers, maid servants and other do-
mestic aids migrate under individual visa arrangements. A few employers send
- 6 -
individual visas directly to their former employees if they wish to employ them
(c) Migration on a government to government basis
Migration on a government to government basis occurs frequently in the frame-
work of technical co-operation. Public sector employers, either directly or
under bi-lateral agreements, request the migrant-sending countries to allow them
to recruit the required manpower. They send their demands generally through
foreign Missions or foreign offices directly to the sending countries, where
they are processed by the authorised governmental agencies only in terms of ad-
vertisements and the receipt and shortlisting of applications. Subsequently,
recruitment teams from the countries of employment come to conduct final interviews
and selections. Final processing and despatch of the selected worker is under-
taken by the competent authorities of the sending country.
Another procedure is that, after receipt of the demand from abroad, the local
authorised governmental agency processes the entire demand and despatches the
workers. In most cases, government employees are recruited against such demands
and seconded or sent on deputation to the employing country. However, in some
sending countries demands emanating from foreign government and semi-government
sectors can also be procured and processed by authorised recruiting agents.
In government to government migration, visas for the recruited manpower
are issued by the labour importing country mostly by name in the form of individual
visas. Sometimes group visas are also issued but the visa-permission is accom-
panied by the list showing names of the recruited persons. The system again
varies from one labour importing country to another.
(d) Migration of employees of migrant-sending countries' firms or companies
Home country firms or companies involved in prime contracts, sub-contracts
or joint ventures abroad are allowed to recruit and employ home country workers
for their activities abroad, provided they have been duly approved and authorized
to undertake recruitment and despatch of workers by their Governments. These
firms generally process and despatch the selected workers themselves.
IV. ADMINISTRATIVE RESPONSIBILITY, CONTROL AND REGULATION OF
EMIGRATION FOR EMPLOYMENT ABROAD
In most labour-sending countries in the Asian region migration for employ-
ment is governed by Emigration Acts, Ordinances, Rules of Business, Orders,
Government circulars, directives and notifications. These specify the procedures
that have to be followed by the Government itself, the private recruiting agent
and by the individuals. All migration for employment abroad is subject to pro-
cedures involving governmental agencies or authorised agencies in the public
and the private sector.
(a) Public sector recruitment
In the public sector, the administrative responsibility for controlling,
regulating and handling recruitment and processing of manpower for employment
abroad rests with the authorised governmental agencies such as the BMET and the
Overseas Employment Corporation in Bangladesh, the Ministry of External Affairs
in India, the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Construction in the Republic
- 7 -
of Korea. the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, the Bureau of
Emigration and Overseas Employment and the Overseas Employment Corporation in
Pakistan, the Department of Labour in Sri Lanka. Autonomous or semi-government
home country firms with projects abroad are also included in the public sector.
These agencies handle the foreign employment of their nationals under group or
block, individual or direct visas and on a government to government basis in
respect of both the public and the private sector of the labour-importing
(b) Private sector recruitment
In the private sector, the private recruiting agents, authority holders,
passage brokers or employment promoters that are duly authorised and licensed
by the Governments of the labour exporting countries are responsible for all work
relating to the procurement of overseas demands, the selection of the required
manpower, the processing, clearance and despatch of workers in conformity with
the existing regulations and under the supervision of the authorised government
agencies. In some countries recruiting agents are also allowed to procure and
process requests for manpower coming from the migrant-receiving countries' public
(c) Individual or direct recruitment
In the case of individual visas, the processing, including medical examina-
tion, documentation, visa endorsement and clearance from emigration authorities
is the responsibility of the concerned individuals, who also do their own travel
arrangements. In some countries, if their number exceeds five under a single
authorisation, they have to be processed through a recruiting agent. In the
case of the Republic of Korea, the limit has been raised to 20 for individual
processing of cases under the "name request basis". Elsewhere, individual visa
holders are required to deposit a one-way fare with the Government before pro-
ceeding for employment abroad.
V. PROTECTIVE AND REGULATORY MEASURES ADOPTED BY MIGRANT-SENDING COUNTRIES
The massive movements of temporary contract migrant workers from the labour-
surplus countries of Asia to the oil-rich countries of the Middle East neces-
sitated the adoption of regulatory and protective measures by both the sending
and the receiving countries to safeguard the employment interests and welfare
of the migrants.
The foreign service agreement is the main instrument through which the
interestsof the migrant workers are protected. It is obligatory for all migrant
workers. A number of sending countries have drawn up standard or model foreign
service agreements that specify the terms and conditions of employment. In
the private sector, the employer or his authorised representative finalises
the employment contracts or foreign service agreements which are duly signed
by them and by the recruitee in his home country. In migration on a government
to government basis the foreign service agreements are signed by the selected
- 8 -
employees in their home country, but sometimes a new contract has to be signed
by them on arrival in the receiving country. Home country firms or companies
sign employment contracts with the selected workers before their despatch
abroad. In the case of individual visas, authenticated individual foreign
service agreements or employment contracts are received by the migrants directly
from the employer. All foreign service agreements are registered with the
authorised government agency or commissioners or protectors of emigrants,
who ensure that the migrant's working and living conditions that are listed
in the foreign service agreement accord with the provisions contained in the
labour laws or regulations of the migrant receiving country and the rules
of.the firms or companies employing the migrants.
The occupation of the worker is generally specified in the foreign service
agreement. The wages are also specified. These are fixed through negotia-
tions and agreement between the employer and the worker. Some migrant sending
countries have prescribed minimum wage rates for various categories of manpower
destined for employment in different countries. The worker is entitled to
free accommodation, food, medical care and transport or receives fixed cash
payments in lieu thereof. He is entitled to weekly holidays, paid public
holidays and paid leave. His normal working week is limited to 48 hours.
Overtime payments are usually fixed at 50 per cent above the normal wage.
The migrant worker is also entitled to compensation in case of death or occu-
pational disease or injury sustained during the performance of his duties.
The foreign service agreement further provides for survivors' benefits. The
migrant is also entitled to social security benefits that may accrue to him
under existing labour laws or rules of the migrant-receiving country. In
some of these countries, the migrant is also provided with insurance coverage
against accident or injury occurring outside duty hours. The foreign service
agreement finally specifies that the employer will pay return fare to the
worker from home country to worksite and badk. (A selection of foreign service
agreements and standard employment contracts can be found in Bbhning, 1982).
The foreign service agreement states that the migrant worker will be
on probation, generally for 3 to 6 months after arrival and that, if his per-
formance is unsatisfactory, he will be repatriated.
In most labour sending countries persons recruited in the public or private
sector or under individual visa arrangements are charged a fee covering emigra-
tion clearance, welfare fund and processing charges. In the private sector,
the recruiting agent is authorised to charge or receive a part of this fee.
He is required to spend it on trade and medical testing of the recruitees,
preparation and attestation of his documents, visa endorsement plus other
overhead and establishment costs. This has been done in order to prevent
excessive charges, which would be illegal.
In several migrant sending countries the migrant is provided with compulsory
and comprehensive life insurance before and after his journey to the country
of employment. He has, of course, to bear the insurance premium. This insurance
is additional to the insurance provided in his country of employment, which
mostly covers the period on duty.
- 9 -
Sending countries such as Pakistan and the Philippines have established
a workers welfare and training fund. These funds have been set up firstly to
meet the needs arising out of the welfare, legal, cultural and social problems
of expatriates and their dependents; secondly, to finance the training of pros-
pective migrants or of return migrants; and thirdly, to finance and set up
projects and industries with a view to the provision of job opportunities to
reabsorb return migrants.
Pre-departure orientation and briefing is undertaken in some countries
through regular orientation and briefing centres, while others hold regular
sessions or courses for outgoing workers. Their objective is to equip the
migrants with adequate knowledge and information about their host countries
in order to enable them to adjust speedily to the new environment. Cultural
and psychological orientation and training is provided, as well as information
about the laws, regulations, customs and traditions, living and working condi-
tions, the "Dos and Don'ts" of host countries in the words of an Indian
Migrants complaints arising out of recruitment malpractices, disputes
and grievances are to be heard, enquired into and settled by the appointed
or designated authorities in the migrant sending countries.
There are varying arrangements for the sending and monitoring of remittan-
ces. Some countries' foreign service agreements contain clauses that provide
for sending home of specified amounts of remittances by their citizens
through official channels. The systems for monitoring and controlling these
remittances appear, in general, rather weak. Other countries have arrangements
for the payment of a certain percentage of the wages of their migrants employed
abroad in their home country account or to their dependents at home. Such
arrangements tend to cover workers who proceeded abroad to work in projects
executed by home country firms. Still other countries have a combination of
Arrangements for monitoring of information and data on return migrants,
their occupational and industrial distribution and other characteristics, place
of settlement at home and their rebasorbtion in the country's economy have
not yet been adequately systematized in the countries of origin. In some cases
ad-hoc surveys are reported to have been conducted to assess the rate of in-
flow of returnees. In one case a cell has been specially created to deal with
problems of return migrants and collect and maintain relevant information and
For details of the migrant-sending countries' laws and regulations con-
cerning the subjects referred to in this section, see ARPLA(n.d. and 1981),
Bbhning(1982)and the country papers submitted to the ILO/ARPLA Symposium on
Overseas Employment Administration, Pattaya, Bangkok, May 1984, which will
be published under the auspices of ARPLA. Table 2 provides an overview of
the type of measures in force in the major Asian sending countries at present.
- 10 -
Table 2: Areas of Government intervention and specific measures taken by counries
a5 a a a
au c -a a a 3
71 CU C M i
Countries CU a a a .-
oa*0- ^ a -i -
C T3 *! -3 c. -
ac c B G a a -=
C / 3 g -z-
Recruitment and placement
Emigration clearance to leave country
Ban/restriction on direct hiring
Minimum standards for work contracts*
Licensing/regulation of private recruiters
Operation of recruitment agency by State
Security bond requirement
Ban/limit recruitment fee charged to worker
Contribution to Welfare Fund
Restriction on passport issue
Regulation of job advertising
Trade test requirement
Compulsory use national employment service
Restriction on selected occupations
"No objection certificate" requirement
Compulsory service in country before departure
Ban on female domestic workers
Specification of transport carrier
Periodic inspection recruitment establishment
Restriction on country of employment
Renewal of contract clearance
Labour Attache programme
Negotiation of supply agreements
Advertising and promotion
Guarantee financing national contractors
State-subsidised skill training
Settlement of claims/disputes
Conciliation/adjudication machinery at work-
site or on return
Labour Attache assistance
Fund to cover unpaid claims
Repatriation of earnings
Requirement to remit % of salary
Incentives to remit:
Duty-free import privilege
Foreign currency denominated bonds
Low-cost group insurance for migrant workers
Legal aid to overseas workers in distress
Social welfare services for migrants' families
Health and medical facilities
x x x x
x X X X
Source: Abella, 1984
x X X
VI. PROTECTIVE AND REGULATORY MEASURES ADOPTED BY MIGRANT RECEIVING
The labour legislation, administration and social security institutions
of most migrant receiving countries in the Middle East are in an early stage
of development. Freedom of association and collective bargaining is restricted.
Moreover, socio-cultural, political and economic reasons have given rise to very
strict policies on the employment of non-nationals and a host of intricate
regulations and requirements regarding their work and stay.
Employers too must comply with a number of rules, .regulations and proce-
dures for importing workers from abroad in respect of health and safety, sala-
ries and benefits and, where applicable, local taxes and contributions towards
funds for social security or workmen's compensation. Individuals or employers
intending to import manpower often have to seek expert advise from local law
Employers from Middle Eastern countries wishing to recruit manpower from
abroad are required to draw up agreements with licenced agents or recruiters
in both the public and the private sectors of labour exporting countries.
These agreements define their responsibilities and those of the recruiters.
The agreements are framed in the light of the existing regulations for emigra-
tion in the sending countries and the immigration and labour laws of the re-
ceiving countries. They afford a measure of protection not only to the employers
and their appointed recruiting agents but also to the workers.
In most Middle Eastern countries, disputes arising out of non-fulfilment
of the terms or conditions of employment specified in the workers' foreign
service agreements or employment contracts are generally to be settled amicably
through negotiations between employers and workers, if necessary with the par-
ticipation of representatives of recruitment agents or with Labour Attaches
or designated Embassy or Consulate officials of the labour sending country.
If these procedures fail to settle the dispute, it is referred to the local
labour court or other specified courts. In some countries expatriate workers
can also refer their cases to worksite unions through local members of the
union. In Saudi Arabia, depending on the nature of the dispute, cases may
also be referred to the Sharia religious ) Court. Enterprises from the Republic
of Korea hold monthly meetings between workers and managers to resolve indi-
A specific percentage of the workers' basic pay is earmarked as a contribu-
tion to the government-run social security institutions. The employer usually
pays the larger proportion of the total. In some cases, where the worker con-
tinues his social security contributions in his country of origin, he is exempted
from them in the country of employment. There are instances where the employers
pay the entire social security contribution, thereby lessening the financial
burden on the workers.
Some Arab countries require all non-nationals with employment contracts
in excess of one year to pay social security taxes. In return they are entitled
- 12 -
to benefits such as medical care, hospitalisation, supply of medicines, etc.
But many other benefits of this insurance system become effective for workers
from the Asian migrant-sending countries only if they have served abroad for
a minimum specified period, mostly 5 years, and have reached the age of super-
annuation i.e. 60 years. Under the social security laws of Saudi Arabia,
for instance, a migrant who has worked for 5 years or more in that country
can draw pension in his home country or elsewhere if he attains retirement
age, provided he furnishes authenticated proof of his contributions to the
social security system during his employment in Saudi Arabia.
Contributions to workmen's compensation have usually to be borne by the
employers. In some countries the employers are obliged to provide workers
with basic medical aid.
Insurance facilities differ among countries and employers. In Bahrain,
Qatar and Saudi Arabia most of the large enterprises provide free insurance
coverage during duty hours. Some provide insurance coverage both on and off
the job. In Iraq all workers are insured by the Iraqi National Insurance
Company for comprehensive coverage during the contract period; employers pay
The duration of employment contracts of most migrant workers recruited
by the Middle Eastern employers ranges between 1 to 2 years. Workers from
the Philippines usually have contracts with a duration of 11 months; in the
case of the Republic of Korea it is one year and in the case of Sri Lanka
two years. The trend among foreign employers is for shorter duration of
Migrant workers in Arab countries of employment do not enjoy the right
to organise, strike or bargain collectively. Issues arising in respect of
terms or conditions of employment and other related problems between employers
and employees are in the first instance resolved by the respective Personnel
Administration Departments, failing which they are referred to the Labour
However, in Iraq the expatriates can approach worksite unions through
Iraqi members of the unions, for redress of their grievances or settlement
A number of receiving countries and employers pursue a policy of making
migrant workers sign their particular contracts as soon as the workers reach
their destinations, irrespective of the foreign service agreements already
in the workers' possession and the terms and conditions of employment men-
PART Two EXPLOITATIVE PRACTICES RELATING TO MIGRANTS'
WORKING AND LIVING CONDITIONS
The exploitation of the Asian migrant workers at both ends of the migra-
tion chain is a fact and common knowledge today. There appears to be a lack
of urgency on the part of the authorities concerned to remedy this situation.
Furthermore, many prospective emigrants and those already abroad succumb to
exploitative practices as though they were inevitable; in some case they are
actually self-imposed. The exploitative practices which originate in the migrants'
countries of origin have a direct bearing on their subsequent working and living
VII. PROBLEMS ARISING IN THE COUNTRIES OF ORIGIN
With the notable exception of the Republic of Korea, there have been per-
sistent reports of exploitation of migrants at the stage of recruitment, to
which sending countries' media have drawn attention. Evidence indicates that
over the years these malpractices have proliferated. As a result, most sending
countries have tightened their emigration laws and procedures (see the country
papers submitted to the 1984 ARPLA Symposium). There are a number of reasons
for the abuses occurring before departure, as well as several background factors
that facilitate exploitation. Among them are the following.
The large majority of migrants are unskilled or semi-skilled workers from
rural areas with very low levels of education and training. They face bureau-
cratic procedures with which they are unfamiliar and whose benefit to them is
unclear. They are often unaware of formal terms and conditions of employment.
Their ignorance and lack of knowledge makes them easy prey to unscrupulous re-
cruiters. These include graft, the provision of jobs with extremely poor working
and living conditions and sometimes the promise of a job against payment of
a fee where no job exists, as the migrant discovers to his horror on arrival
in the country of employment.
The high rate of unemployment and the lack of adequate job opportunities
at home lead the migrants to accept whatever terms and conditions of employment
are offered to them for employment abroad. The result can be a life of misery
close to subsistence levels. Yet the terms and conditions of employment are
accepted by the migrant because he feels that it is better to earn something
abroad than to remain unemployed at home. The over-kenness of the prospective
migrant due to the lure of lucrative jobs and high salaries abroad makes him
easily susceptible to exploitative practices. The urge to migrate to the Middle
East among Asian workers has spread like a contagion. Given the opportunity,
a large proportion of the workforce in the Asian labour exporting countries
would rush to migrate. In fact, this burning desire to secure jobs in the Middle
East has seized not only unskilled workers but also skilled and highly qualified
In spite of having experienced difficult living and working conditions
abroad, a number of return migrants have developed such addiction to foreign
- 14 -
employment that, shortly after return home, they again start making efforts
to secure placement abroad. Since they are financially better off than their
compatriots at home, they are willing to pay more for their jobs abroad. This
leads to aggravation of corrupt practices in the field of recruitment and pushes
up the rate of illegal monetary gratification extracted from prospective migrants
by the manpower recruiters. "Fly by night" agents mushroom in such conditions.
The often cumbersome recruitment procedures and the difficult attitude
of officials not immune to corruption, poses problems in the smooth departure
of workers from their home countries. This induces them to find their way out
through bribery or by circumventing the law for fear of losing their jobs aorcad.
Since the foreign employer is naturally reluctant to accept late arrival for
work, migrants are compelled to resort to all sorts of legal and illegal means
to find their way out of the country.
In spite of protective legislation, strict control and punitive action
prescribed for erring recruiting agents in the migrant-sending countries, they
continue to make a fortune out of the workers who are desperate to go abroad
to work. Corruption generally consists of taking monetary or other types of
material gratification from the worker. In fact, the more strict the legis-
lation or rules, the higher the rate of malpractices and illegal gratification.
It is common knowledge that besides the officially prescribed fee paid
by candidates of foreign employment, a large and, indeed, bigger amount exchanges
hands under the table. Reports indicate that persons recruited for foreign
employment pay the recruiting agents amounts totalling between US$ 1 2,000
per job. Of course, payment does not by itself ensure that the working conditions
correspond to what the migrant believed or was told, or to those stipulated
in his contract.
This is a tragic situation. A prospective migrant, caught up in recruitment
malpractices, not only sets off problems for himself but also triggers off
a chain of corruption. To procure a placement abroad he has to approach a re-
cruitment agent, request a friend or relative abroad to arrange a job for him,
or go to a governmental agency dealing with recruitment. Almost everywhere
the migrant has to pay an exhorbitant amount of money for procuring a foreign
job. For his subsequent processing he has to resort to the same means at every
step. In addition, he has to pay the official fee prescribed in some of the
sending countries to obtain departure clearances. Consequently, he has to
mortgage or sell his land, property and other belongings or take out loans
from private money lenders at exhorbitant rates. This is the first stage of
the vicious circle which he activates and of which he becomes a victim.
To include names on shortlists is an occasion for extorting money by re-
cruitment agents in both the private and the public sector. Most recruiting
agents not only extort huge sums of money illegally from the prospective migrant
for providing him a job abroad, but often involve him in travelling long dis-
tances to reach the place of recruitment where selection, processing and docu-
mentation is undertaken. During this period he has to either stay with friends
or relatives or put up in hired accommodation. Often the process is so time
consuming that he spends months waiting for selection, completion of various
formalities and his departure, all of which imposes an additional financial
burden on him.
- 15 -
The miseries of the prospective migrant multiply when, as happens in a
number of cases, the agent fibbs him off with false promises of jobs abroad
for months and even years. The prospective migrant, in sheer disappointment
and shame, does not return home but takes out further loans. Gradually, the
waiting drives him to the point of desperation, whereupon the recruiting
agent may return the whole or a part of the money, or simply disappears,
leaving the desperate workseeker to find a job for himself.
A recruiting agent, on receipt of a number of foreign job offers, may
engage workers in excess of the number required. Charging fees that the market
will bear, he keeps the accumulated amounts in fixed deposits, on which he
earns considerable interest. When the job-seekers become restive he returns
the fees to persons for whom no jobs are available, thus establishing his
credibility both with the recruited and the unrecruited workers. Subsequently,
he capitalizes on the good reputation he has earned and after taking money
illegally from unsuspecting job-seekers, either disappears within the country
or runs away to a foreign country.
Often the occupations for which the workers are recruited do not tally
with those mentioned in their passports. In such cases the recruited worker
may have to pay fees both on account of the change and for getting the change
in his passport effected. At times the visa category is such that it becomes
almost impossible for the worker to procure experience certificates in the
specific occupation. He therefore resorts to bribery to obtain fake certificates.
The same holds true in respect of certificates that may be required concerning
his religion, character and experience and which have to be endorsed by consu-
lates of several of the Middle Eastern countries.
Skilled and semi-skilled persons are very often recruited for posts of
helpers as unskilled workers and are paid accordingly, but a considerable number
of them are subsequently made to perform skilled jobs in contravention of the
original employment agreements.
By contrast, a number of unskilled workers, by paying illegal gratification,
secure skilled and high level jobs, but face difficulties in performing their
duties and, consequently, face repatriation.
It also happens that the terms and conditions stipulated in the contract
of employment or foreign service agreement are inaccurately explained to the
After obtaining visas on passports of genuinely selected recruitees,
private recruitment agents are known to have substituted the passport photograph
and sent a person from whom they have extorted a very large sum of money.
Sometimes recruiters manage to obtain visas issued to particular persons
and then send other persons to the employing country, i.e. impersonators.
Standard employment contracts stipulate that the workers' return air
fare to the worksite in the country of employment has to be paid by the
employer. However, many recruiting agents illegally charge the air fare
- 16 -
to the recruitee. In some cases they charge the employer as well. Travel
arrangements are also prone to abuses.
The most vulnerable group falling prey to the exploitative practices and
abuses of manpower racketeers are the individual visa holders. Individual visa
or direct visa holders have to pay a comparatively higher amount to the middle-
man of a foreign employer compared with persons recruited under block or group
visa arrangements. Once the individual visa holders arrive in the country of
employment they can change their sponsors or employers often only by paying
a bribe, which secures their approval of the job change. In a number of cases
they are not provided authenticated foreign service agreements or employment
contracts which they then seek to obtain with the assistance of dubious agents.
These contracts are without value and employers do not accept them.
Workers selected for employment abroad encounter difficulties in obtaining
new passports or having them amended. They also face problems of translation
into Arabic and attestation of their birth, marriage, education, experience
and other certificates required by foreign missions for visa endorsement and
by their employers on arrival in the host country.
Due to lack of awareness about procedures, inadequate dissemination of
information by the media and inaccessibility of officials working in this area,
a class of middlemen has emerged which helps the prospective migrants in all
matters relating to their employment abroad. They charge a commission from
the migration candidates for the services they render, in addition to the fees
paid by the job-seekers to the recruiting agents. Middlemen establish contacts
with recruiting agents or officials responsible for selection, processing, visa
endorsement, clearance and departure. They collect illegal gratifications
from the migrants and pass them on to the recruiting agents and officials who
prefer to stay out of the limelight. There are instances where middlemen have
been caught using, illegitimately, the name of officials for extorting money
from prospective migrants by pretending to pay these officials in order to
obtain foreign jobs for work-seekers.
Recruiting agents tend to bribe foreign employers or their representatives
for obtaining visas and for engaging candidates on their shortlists. Foreign
employers are known to put a price on their block or individual visas and to
bargain with the recruiting agents. The practice is common in all Asian labour
supplying countries. When employers or their representatives visit a labour
supplying country, they expect the appointed or selected recruiting agent to
provide them with free lodging, boarding, transport facilities plus various
kinds of entertainment. The recruiting agents themselves often visit labour
importing countries for procurement of demands. The expenses incurred are,
of course, charged to the intending migrants.
Nationals of labour sending countries who have established industrial,
business or commercial enterprises in the Middle East in collaboration with
Arab entrepreneurs, obtain visa permissions to import workers for their esta-
blishments from their own countries, in the form of both block visas or indi-
vidual visas. These visas may be sold to their fellow countrymen. When the
- 17 -
workers arrive in the country of employment they are released by their original
sponsors and can take up jobs with other employers.
In the case of visas that are granted by foreign missions, one has the
impression that they favour certain groups of recruiting agents or middlemen,
against payment of course. Even the local staff in foreign missions indulge
in exploitative practices and the extortion of illegal gratifications from
the prospective emigrants or authorised agents for processing their visa en-
Enterprises from migrant sending countries executing contracts in the Middle
East with the help of their nationals are reported to pay substandard wages
compared with wages they pay to other nationalities of migrant workers. Many
such firms pay their fellow countrymen half the wages in foreign exchange at
the worksite, while the other half is credited to accounts in their home countries
in local currency.
Large international enterprises of good repute do not usually demand il-
legal payments from their appointed agents in the migrant sending countries.
They pay a fixed commission per worker and reimburse other processing costs.
Their main interest is to get the right type of manpower. They do not pay much
attention to or take action against reports from the recruitees that they have
been charged large fees illegally by recruiting agents. Agents usually justify
their corruption by pleading that they have to pay bribes to officials and pri-
vate individuals at various stages of the recruitment procedure.
In case of Arab enterprises from countries of employment an interesting
pattern has emerged in the recent past. In many cases the employers personally
or their recruitment officers visit various Asian labour surplus countries.
On arrival they are accosted by resident Arab students or fortune seekers who
try to gain their confidence in order to act as middlemen. They settle terms
with recruiting agents or prospective migrants, obtain bribes from them and
pay a portion to the employers. They also assist the employers in their stay,
shopping and entertainment, and may well be appointed as their representatives.
Work-seekers trust their credibility and pay them the exhorbitant amounts
demanded for the provision of jobs in the Middle East.
VIII. PROBLEMS OF WORK AND LIFE IN THE COUNTRY OF EMPLOYMENT
Problems in the sphere of work and life usually arise in situations where
the nature of work is informal and where norms and terms and conditions of
employment are lacking or not observed. Evidence indicates that, despite more
stringent laws and regulations at both ends of the migration chain, malpractices
and exploitation continue unabated.
Although problems relating to working and living conditions of migrant
workers differ from country to country, from one employer to another, and from
one group of workers to another, some of the general problems afflicting most
groups of migrant workers are summarised below.
- 18 -
(a) Contract substitution
The contracts of employment or foreign service agreements of workers are
generally filled in by employers' representatives so as to correspond to con-
ditions prescribed for emigration by the migrant sending countries. It is said
that a very large proportion of the employment agreements signed by local re-
cruiters (on the strength of the power of attorney issued in their favour by
foreign principals or employers) which allow the workers to depart are changed
either during the journey or immediately on arrival in the country of employment.
The new contracts invariably contain lower wages and poor terms and conditions
of employment. The workers really have no other option than to sign the changed
contracts. Where workers protested to managers against this practice they
have been known to be arrested or illtreated by the local authorities and in
some cases have-been repatriated. In the conditions in which they find themselves
they avoid seeking redress of their grievances from the local authorities or
Another reason why employment contracts are substituted is due to the
fact that a number of employers in the Middle East meet their manpower demands
by hiring expatriate workers available in the local labour market. Most of
these workers are clandestine migrants or undocumented workers who accept very
low wages and substandard terms of employment
Unscrupulous employers who cannot find enough labour on the spot recruit
workers directly or through their representatives. Having drawn up employment
contracts that fulfill the legal requirements of migrant sending countries,
they do not hesitate to replace them with new contracts upon the workers' arrival.
Needless to say, the wages will be lower and the terms of employment worse.
Most contracts are in English when they are processed in the labour sending
countries and are duly authenticated as such. When the worker arrives in his
country of employment, this contract may be changed to an Arabic version that
the worker has to sign. The new contract generally replaces the monthly wage
by a daily wage. This has two disadvantages for the migrant. Firstly, the
accumulated daily take-home pay tends to be less than the standard monthly wage.
Secondly, he does not become entitled to benefits enjoyed by workers paid on
a regular monthly basis.
Visa classifications are another major cause of contract substitution.
The majority of workers appear to be assigned to visa categories to which they
do not belong. For example, an employer may have visas for carpenters but ac-
tually needs plain labourers. He or his agent recruits labourers whom he allo-
cates visas foreseen for carpenters. To clear the migration of the labourers
with the labour sending countries' authorities, the occupation listed in the
persons' passports has to be changed and documents may have to be faked. When
the workers arrive in the country of employment the sponsor or employer naturally
proceeds to change these contracts to make them accord with the purposes for
which the recruitment was undertaken, i.e. plain labour. There are professionals
- 19 -
or highly skilled migrants who find themselves employed well below their qua-
lifications. At the level of academic degrees there is the further problem
of equivalence of qualifications, a question that has not been tackled
seriously or objectively.
(b) Withdrawal of passports and other travel documents
The workers' passports and other travel documents are, in many cases,
taken away on arrival in the country of employment by agents or employers and
returned to them only at the time of their departure. During the intervening
period they are allowed only to keep their "Aqamas" or residence permits and
other official documents or identification papers issued by the migrant
receiving country. Protests can lead to police interrogation and detention.
Certain employers do not bother to take up the matter with police authorities
when workers are imprisoned.
(c) Breach of employment contract
Breach of contract or of foreign service agreement is a general complaint
among expatriate workers. A large number of workers have had to work in
different areas and under conditions different from those agreed upon or mentioned
in their employment contracts. Large foreign firms implementing contracts in
Middle Eastern countries are generally reported to fulfill their contractual
obligations towards expatriate workers. Complaints of non-fulfilment of con-
tracts arise mostly with small or local employers.
Cases have been reported where expatriates, although recruited for spe-
cific jobs, were employed on rather different jobs. Drivers are asked to work
as cleaners or mechanics etc., when there is no driving to do. Some nationalities
of migrant workers resent this and refuse to work on jobs other than those they
were recruited for. They may face harsh treatment or repatriation as a result.
Even supervisors and qualified workers can be afflicted by such events.
Many migrants have a low level of literacy and understanding of Arabic
and are, therefore, quite helpless in defending themselves or seeking redress
through labour courts. Having incurred debts at the stage of recruitment they
dare not return home without sufficient savings. They are thus left to the
mercy of the employer and have to accept whatever terms are offered to them.
Wages are the main cause of complaint. They sometimes vary by nationality;
workers from Bangladesh and Sri Lanka feel particularly grieved.It seems that
the remuneration in the migrant-receiving countries is to some extent related
to the different wage levels prevailing in the countries of origin.
The situation has now become more critical due to the dwindling employ-
ment opportunities in the countries of employment. Competition among labour
exporting countries to supply manpower at the cheapest possible rates has in-
creased. There is evidence to indicate that this has lowered the wages of
migrant workers substantially. There is also a watering down of terms and
conditions of employment. Migrant sending countries that have prescribed
- 20 -
minimum wages and other benefits are comparatively more affected and are in
danger of losing their share of the market. This may well set off a vicious
In a number of migrant receiving countries the work week exceeds the
prescribed standard ceiling of 48 hours. Examples of Asians working 12 hours-
a day and 6 or 7 days a week can be found in many Middle Eastern countries.
This saps their energies and affects their health adversely. Overtime allowan-
ces may not be paid or may be paid at lower rates than provided for in the
employment contract. Expatriate workers also had to work on official holidays
and Fridays without payment of appropriate overtime wages. Such practices
are more frequent among small employers. Multi-national enterprises usually
honour the terms and conditions agreed upon.
It is true that, although overtime is limited under various countries'
labour laws, both the employer and the worker tend to favour overtime. But
expatriates are more willing to work overtime if they are paid the agreed rates,
thus increasing their earnings, which is their main motive of migration. The
lack of leisure time opportunities, especially for workers from South-East Asia
living in camps separated from local communities, is another reason for the
interest in overtime. For the employer overtime work enables completion of
the project without hiring additional workers.
Fulfilment of contractual obligations in respect of contract duration differs
from one employer to another. They prolong or shorten contract duration in order
to delay or avoid payment of paid annual, earned leave or of return flights.
Employers in the Middle Eastern countries earlier favoured long contract
durations but now limit them mostly to one year. This has increased labour turn-
over. Several employers are reported to find annual contracts more profitable
because they can sell visas more frequently and thus obtain larger receipts from
the recruiters who, in turn, pass the burden to the migrant.
At the end of the contract period an employee is normally entitled to annual
leave and free passage to his home country. A number of cases have been reported
where, when the worker is close to the expiry date of his contract, he is either
dismissed or transferred by the employer. When terminated prematurely, he is
usually not provided with free passage nor paid in lieu of annual leave. If
transferred to an affiliate of the same company, he may have to renounce his
claim to paid leave or free return passage. At any rate, he is made to sign
a new contract. Consequently, he thus has to work for another one or two years
before he becomes entitled to paid leave and a one-way ticket to his country
of origin. Sometimes the employer does not allow his expatriate employee to
go on annual leave on grounds of heavy workload. The migrant is made to work
for months without the paid annual leave that is due to him. If he insists
on leave, his employment is terminated and he may not receive a paid return
ticket. Such problems afflict mostly migrants hired under individual visa ar-
rangements or hired through private fee-charging agencies.
- 21 -
One factor contributing to these malpractices is the fact that the labour
laws of several countries of employment do not contain clauses regarding paid
transport for migrant workers. The laws generally only specify that an employee,
after completion of one years' service with an employer, is entitled to a fixed
number of days of annual leave. In Saudi Arabia, for example, it is 15 days.
Thus, although the migrants at the time of recruitment are promised free return
passages upon completion of their contracts, the foreign employers may with-
hold this benefit without facing contrary labour court decisions.
Medical care in the camp sites is often far from perfect. Workers who need
emergency medical care have to be 'sent to hospitals that are located at consi-
derable distances from the worksites.
Despite the fact that expatriate workers are entitled to free medical treat-
ment, there were instances of workers suffering from serious diseases like tu-
berculosis, heart, kidney or other ailments, but who were not provided medical
treatment and were often not even allowed to return home. Migrant workers who
are entitled to reimbursement of medical expenses are also reported to face
problems in the settlement of their claims.
Accommodation is a widespread problem that the migrant workers have to face
on arrival. Where, according to the terms of the contract, accommodation is
supposed to be proved free of charge it happens that it is not provided at all,
and, if it is provided, that it is crowded and unhygienic, with at times more
than 8 or 10 workers sharing one room. Furnished accommodation may turn out
to be tents. Migrants have also ended up in shacks and mud houses without
proper facilities. Fans, linen and blankets seem to be particularly scarce
commodities. Proper toilets and sanitation facilities are lacking both at
worksites and in living quarters.
Normally, employers who do not provide accommodation are required to pay
the worker a specific percentage of his basic wage, which frequently fails to
materialise. Only the large or ethical employers provide proper accommodation
and sometimes airconditioning or they pay in lieu thereof, usually at the rate
of three months pay for one year's accommodation.
The employment contract generally stipulates the provision of free food
by the employers. In actual fact, the quantity, quality and kind of food that
is provided to the workers is frequently inadequate. Certain employers provide
no food or subsidies at all, nor do they pay the worker an allowance for it.
Still others deduct the price of food from the workers' salaries, which contra-
venes the standard employment contracts.
Food adjustment problems also occur where migrants have to cook for them-
selves, and they frequently have to do this after a long and arduous day's work.
- 22 -
(d) Occupational safety and health
Measures for occupational safety and health, particularly in smaller
establishments, are either lacking or substandard. Many incidents have been
reported where workers were electrocuted, lost their hearing or damaged their
eyesight. Loss of limbs or other organs, exposure to poisonous gasses or
toxic materials and substances seems inordinate, although systematic informa-
tion is not available. Returning migrants complained of various ailments
contracted abroad. Statistics indicate that the number of migrants suffering
accidents or occupational diseases is increasing in the Middle East. A common
complaint with regard to compensation due in such cases is that, where the
accident is not job-related or has occurred outside duty hours, the benefits
will not be paid.
(e) Social security
Despite the existence of social security systems in several countries
of employment, the migrant workers experience problems in receiving benefits
due to them. The reimbursement procedures for expenditure on sickness and
accidents are cumbersome and time consuming and have to be performed in Arabic.
Sometimes migrants simply do not bother to claim small amounts. Death and
disability compensation is frequently held up by particularly drawn-out pro-
cedures with which the recipients are, of course, mostly totally unfamiliar.
(f) Social and family problems
Although the emigration of workers provides marked economic benefits
for both the sending countries and the migrants, the social and family problems
it brings in its wake cast a shadow on the whole matter. In most Middle Eastern
countries the migrants are not allowed to be accompanied or joined by their
families, except in the case of, for example, certain highly qualified specia-
Many large groups of companies provide a favourable atmosphere in terms
of job satisfaction, organisational environment, career development, advance-
ment, opportunities etc.-This israrely the case for migrants who work in small
firms and sole proprietorship companies. Psychosomatic illnesses occur and
are compounded by homesickness.
Most Asian migrant workers are married but they have to leave their spouse
and children and larger families behind. This causes emotional and psychol-
gical stress, especially in the rather different cultural milieu they find
in the countries of employment in the Gulf region.
Many labourers can visit their families only once in two years. Besides,
they live in labour camps that are widely spread out, and this usually makes
their social mixing or getting together difficult. Intermixing among migrants
of different ethnic origins is not known t occur on a noticeable scale.
Where family reunification is allowed, the visas are not immediately
available for the family members. The breadwinner has to take along the par-
ticulars of family to the country of employment in order to obtain the requisite
- 23 -
visas, provided the documentation is complete. This includes attestation
of marriage certificates, birth certificates and passport changes. Many times
the documents have to be obtained after the migrant has left. Since the wives
and other family members are unaware of the procedures, it takes a long time
to complete the formalities. After despatch of documents there is again a
long wait for the receipt of visas. Subsequently, visa endorsement, various
clearances and travel arrangements cause delays. Family reunification may
take 1 6 months.
In some cases the families of expatriates are not able to adjust in a
foreign environment and the expatriates are compelled to return home.
Often, expatriate families, although left in the care of their in-laws
or relations at home, have become the victims of neglect. The upbringing,
education and health of their children is adversely affected. It is also
a constant source of torture for the migrants' wives,and many marriages have
Furthermore, for many months after the breadwinner has left, the family
staying back home has to make do with the means at its disposal where the
migrant incurred debts in securing his job abroad, because the debts have
to be paid off first.
(g) Postal and remittance facilities
Complaints abound about the lack of adequate postal and remittance fa-
cilities for expatriate workers at worksites. Cases have been reported where
families had not received the letters or remittances sent to them, or have
received them only after long delays. Delays occur due to technical diffi-
culties and cumbersome procedures. Moreover, private intermediaries who trans-
mit letters and remittances sometimes charge excessive fees.
(h) Illegal and clandestine migration
There is substantial illegal migration to countries such as Qatar, Saudi
Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. In Saudi Arabia clandestine migrants
are concentrated in the western region where many go for the Islamic rites
of Umra and Haj and manage to stay on clandestinely and secure employment
at highly exploitative terms.
The members of the Gulf Co-operative Council (GCC) are reported to have
agreed in September 1983 on a co-ordinated plan to repatriate all illegal
workers. This contrasts with the regularisation of illegals several years
ago in Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. At present the Arab migrant
receiving countries stress nationalisation and Arabization of job opportuni-
- 24 -
IX. PROBLEMS FACED BY LOCAL AUTHORISED RECRUITERS AND FOREIGN
EMPLOYERS WISHING TO RECRUIT ASIAN MANPOWER
Recruiting agents generally complain of the delays and administrative bot-
tlenecks hindering rapid procurement, recruitment and processing of their genuine
manpower demands. They claim that, at every step, they have to enter into
illegal monetary transactions. For job offers they have to compete with "bidders"
not only at the national but at the regional level. Foreign employers visiting
migrant sending countries look for free return tickets, free board and lodging,
free transport and entertainment, etc. The agent incurs heavy expenditure on
these items and is constrained to transfer the burden to the candidates for
It has also been alleged by recruiters that, once they obtain job offers,
they have to make illegal payments at fixed rates at various stages such as per-
mission for advertisement, selection, processing, visa endorsement, clearance
and despatch of workers. The cost, again, has to be borne by the recruitee as
he is the most interested party.
It has also been reported that some foreign employers suddenly disappear
after they have first signed an agreement with a local agent, made preliminary
selections, received bribes, after having enjoyed the hospitality of the recruiT-
ing agents. They may go to another city in the same country, to another country
of employment to repeat the same malpractice, or return home. Legal proceedings
in such cases become difficult and time consuming. In any case, the local re-
cruiting agent is faced with the threat of losing his licence, forfeiture of
his security deposit, even imprisonment and complete loss of credibility. Besides,
he may have to spend large sums on giving gratification to avoid intimidation
and harassment by the governmental agencies and on legal proceedings when
caught by law enforcement bodies.
Some recruiting agents complain that the employers do not pay them their
commissions, other contingent and processing expenses or the air fares of the
workers, as stipulated in the agreement between the agent and the employer.
Employers apparently also substitute contracts with lower wages and worse :erms
and conditions of employment for the migrants without informing the recruiting
Promised visas that never arrive may saddle the recruiting agents with the
payment of salaries to workers with whom they have signed contracts.
It will not come as a surprise that employers, too, have their grievances.
Some claim that they were badly cheated by the recruiting agents who in many
cases sent them workers other than those they had selected, workers with poor
skills and abilities and workers in excess of their actual demand. Delays are
another common ground for complaints. Employers also find faults with trade
testing, medical examinations and the checking of documents such as passports
expiry or driving licences. This can lead to the repatriation of workers. The
employers not only loose the visas but also suffer financial and production
- 25 -
Employers of migrant workers occasionally allege arrogant attitudes
on the part of the workers -towards the management. They refer to duties
being performed improperly, to their fussing about the jobs assigned, food,
accommodation and other conditions of work, as well as indiscipline.
Cases have been reported where workers have resorted to violence against their
supervisors and managers, with injuries and fatalities on both sides. At the
same time, employers have suggested that workers from several Asian labour
sending countries are not only available on lower rates but are also more
disciplined, hardworking and dedicated than others. For this reason they
give preference to them in matters of recruitment and employment.
PART Three COMBATTING RECRUITMENT MALPRACTICES AND
IMPROVING WORKING AND LIVING CONDITIONS
X. ACTION AT THE NATIONAL LEVEL: MIGRANT SENDING COUNTRIES
It is apparent that in almost all Asian labour supplying countries today
employment abroad and the associated remittances have become so attractive
that there is a race among them to capture as much international manpower
demand as possible. The private sector appears to be more successful in that
it offers the lowest possible rates and terms for the supply of manpower and
the maximum possible facilities to foreign employers.
The licenced private recruiters, out of sheer necessity and in order to
compete with suppliers of labour at both the national and the regional level,
have been resorting to undesirable recruitment practices. In essence, they
pass on their costs to the worker. The workers feel forced to pay out bribes
in the hope of recuperating their expenditures in the first few months of
employment abroad. In their anxiety to procure foreign employment they do
not insist on receipts for payments made. As fees in excess of the govern-
ment prescribed level are subject to sanctions, the recruiter is forced to
operate clandestinely, dodging the law and resorting to corruption. The autho-
rities close their eyes to these malpractices. If the recruiter were honest
he would loose his business due to tough competition. It is, therefore, dif-
ficult to promote private recruiting agents of the desired quality, class and
integrity. (A rating and ranking system has just begun to be implemented in
the Philippines, and it will be interesting to see the results. In Thailand
the Government has encouraged a private sector initiative of reputable recruit-
ing agents that has the purpose of strengthening them and making them more
efficient. For details see ARPLA, forthcoming).
In this complex situation various strategies could be envisaged to help
governments in pursuing a rational and realistic emigration policy aimed at
minimising corruption and promoting healthy foreign employment practices.
One solution could be to "nationalise" the entire manpower export business,
i.e. to provide a free public employment system for all on the basis of seve-
ral ILO Conventions and Recommendations, as was done in the Western European-
- 26 -
Mediterranean region in the 1950s and 1960s. This would presuppose a well-
staffed and efficient government structure to take over the work of the
existing recruiting agents. Any precipitous move could adversely affect
employment prospects abroad and foreign exchange earnings. Nationalization
may have other drawbacks. It could lead to less competition and effort in
procuring suitable foreign job offers. Indifference could be the result on
the part of both the governmental agencies and the nationals working abroad.
Graft and the mis-utilization of authority and means could not be ruled out.
The obvious alternative would be a policy espousing "laissez-faire" as
the ultimate goal but aiming to reach it through a gradual process of libe-
ralisation. This could mean that, once a work visa has been endorsed on the
passport and the migrant has obtained a ticket for travel to the country of
work, irrespective of who paid for the ticket, he should be permitted to
leave his home country as a matter of course, provided he can show an authen-
ticated copy of the work contract. In following this liberalization, the
intending migrant would benefit most because he would be able to take up work
in the country of employment in the shortest possible time and would not be
a target of extortion by unscrupulous recruiting agents or obstructive emi-
gration officials. This would also permit the emigrant to choose his employ-
ment. Since migration would be liberalised gradually, maximum benefits would
accrue to the workers and the outflow would increase substantially.
However, to bring about this ideal situation, certain administrative
and procedural improvements would be necessary. Firstly, laws and practices
would have to provide maximum protection of the migrant and be effectively
enforced. Secondly, persons with authenticated job offers from foreign em-
ployers should be allowed freely to recruit and despatch workers, after obtain-
ing the necessary clearance from the Government. Persons who secure jobs
directly through their own individual efforts should also be encouraged and
given clearance in the shortest possible time, provided all required documents,
including employment contracts and visas, are in porper order. This would
require vigilance by the diplomatic mission of the migrant sending country,
as well as by the receiving country in respect of authentication of employ-
ment contracts. The sending countries could also utilize their Labour Attaches
in dealing more effectively with the problems of their citizens abroad by
requesting the receiving countries to co-operate to that effect.
A third alternative would be a mixed system where both the public and
private sectors are allowed to operate freely, not in order to compete but
to complement and supplement one another. A combination of institutional,
administrative and scientific facilities could be envisaged. This would prove
more efficient than the first two options. The basic ingredients of the
mixed system would be the following.
The government agencies would handle migration on a government to govern-
ment basis plus individual employment cases. Private recruiting agencies
would be allowed to handle all private sector demands under the supervision
of the government. The proliferation of recruiting agencies would be stopped
and their present numbers reduced to the minimum by allowing only those
agencies to operate who have a clean record and good reputation. There should
- 27 -
be no delay in investigating complaints against recruiting agents. Those found
indulging in malpractices should be blacklisted, their licences cancelled and
their cash bonds or security deposits forfeited. Renewal or cancellation of li-
cences should be subject to a scientific and streamlined system.
Foreign employers or their representatives visiting migrant sending coun-
tries who do not want to go through an agent should be allowed to recruit themselves,
which would reduce complications and corruption. The employer or his representa-
tive should, however, deposit a security bond with the Government that is propor-
tionate to the number of workers to be recruited, and his bonafide status would
have to be certified by all the Governments involved.
Strict punitive action should be taken against erring recruiters, depending
upon the gravity of the malpractices. Names of blacklisted agents and their
principals should be circulated to the receiving countries' missions abroad and
given wide publicity in the media.
National firms may be given complete freedom within the framework of existing
laws to handle the recruitment and deployment of their workers on their projects
A national data bank and clearing house should be established. Its functions
would include the computerisation of the registration of job seekers, foreign
job vacancies, matching of demand with supply and placements. In effect,the
introduction of computerisation from the first to the last step of recruitment,
processing and despatch of emigrants would save a lot of time and interference
from vested interests, minimise exploitation of emigrants and reduce chances of
bribery and corruption. It would also facilitate merit-based selections on
'first come first served' basis. It should be made obligatory for all private
and public sector agencies to engage their manpower from the lists of the data
bank. India has already introduced this kind of computerisation.
With a data bank there would be no need for the advertising that is at
present the rule. (In the private sector the cost of advertisements io invariably
passed on to the recruitees and advertising is done more to satisfy regulations
than to select suitable candidates). Suitable candidates could be picked from
the data bank. This would result in cost savings and reduce the financial burden
on the recruitees. Advertising could always be resorted to in case of particular
categories that are in short supply.
Trade testing is another area in need of improvement. Varying fees are
charged by different institutions and the recruiting agents. Costs vary between
trades and are mostly passed on to the recruitee. Sometimes there are underhand
dealings involved where workers with low skills manage to pass (but may later
face repatriation by the employer).
To avoid the exploitation of the worker in this area it may be necessary
for governments to establish basic trade testing standards. These could be
amended, when the need arises, to suit the specific requirements of employers.
The labour departments or other administrative departments dealing with foreign
employment could organise these in collaboration with pre-selected testing
agencies and training centres. Trade testing fees could oe standardised
according to the type of trade and test, and the worker could be made to pay
the fee either Dy depositing it in the government treasury or in an authorised
bank. Testing should be done strictly in accordance with the prescribed
standards of requirements of the employer in the presence of the employer
or his representative.
The procedure and the type of medical examinations of migration candida-tes
are usually prescribed by the foreign missions located in the country of
origin. Some employers apply their own medical tests. Countries of employ-
ment usually designate, through their missions abroad, certain doctors or
medical centres for medical tests. When it comes to visa endorsement, these
foreign missions only accept medical reports issued by the designated centres
or doctors. There are varying charges for the medical tests and the cost
is borne by the recruitee. Corruption is rife in this field. Governments
could, therefore, examine the possibility of urging the employment countries'
foreign missions to designate only government approved medical institutions
or doctors, from whom a certain amount of security could be demanded to ensure
fair medical testing standards. Standardised fees could be specified. Any
doctor or hospital charging in excess or resorting to unfair means could be
threatened with confiscation of their security bonds and black listing.
The procedures for the verification and authentication of certificates
and passports differ between countries. In some countries only a character
certificate is required, to be effected on stamped paper duly authenticated
by the foreign mission of the migrant sending country for visa endorsement.
In other countries the occupation mentioned in the recruitee's passport, if
not in conformity with the visa category, has to be changed to conform with
the worker's visa category. Furthermore, certificates may be required re-
garding the worker's experience and his religion. The futility of effort
and the waste of physical and material resources required in these authenti-
fication procedures is easy to imagine.
It would simplify matters if only an authenticated character certificate
were needed because the occupation and religion are mentioned in the passport.
It is actually unnecessary to have the occupation changed that is listed in
the passport because the employer or his representative can submit an attested
list of the names of recruitees for purposes of visa endorsement. This would
avoid forgeries and save the worker a great deal of harassment and expense.
This simplification could be agreed upon at the bilateral level.
Facilities for free or subsidized translation into Arabic of the various
certificates should be provided by an appropriate government service.
The hardships and expenses which direct or individual visa holders face
in obtaining endorsements from the respective foreign missions are common
knowledge. There is a dire need for both the sending and receiving countries
- 29 -
to undertake a critical review of the situation and evolve a standardised system.
Submission of cases to the consulates for visa endorsement could be undertaken
by the agencies dealing with overseas employment instead of the recruiting agent
In some countries individual visa holders as well as group visa holders
(through their agents) have to grapple with bureaucratic hurdles to obtain the
clearance of the commissioner or protector of emigrants or concerned authorities.
Corruption is well-nigh inevitable. The whole procedure of emigration clearance
and ticketing needs to be reviewed and simplified with as little paper work as
possible. Computerisation could ease the situation. Alternatively, as proposed
earlier, the feasibility of stamping the passport of emigrants with the protec-
tor's clearance at the airport or exit points should be considered.
Although the travel arrangements are supposed to be the employer's responsi-
bility, in most cases the migrants themselves pay for their passage to the work-
site. As foreign exchange is required in some countries, the recruiting agents
and often the individual recruitees go to a lot of trouble to obtain foreign ex-
change, which is purchased at the black market rate. National governments, to
mitigate these hardships, should consider the possibility of allowing the purchase
of the tickets in local currency.
Countries such as the Republic of Korea and Pakistan provide life insurance
to migrants before departure. This covers the journey and the period spent on
and off duty in the country of employment. If the workers are injured or die,
compensation is given to the notified nominees.
Those labour exporting countries which do not provide life insurance to wor-
kers proceeding abroad could consider the possibility of introducing this system.
It is an excellent form of protection which is highly beneficial for the workers'
survivors staying behind in his country of origin and is additional to the bene-
fits which may accrue to survivors from the employment country's social security
Sending countries which do not impart predeparture orientation and briefing
to their emigrants in a systematic manner should consider the possibility of intro-
ducint it. This would help to equip the emigrants with better knowledge about
the climatic, environmental, cultural, social and economic conditions of their
host countries, customs rules, emigration regulations, labour laws, their rights
and obligations and "Dos and Don'ts". Booklets, pamphlets and country guides should
be available. Caution needs to be exercised to prevent this obligation from turning
into an obstruction or a new opportunity for corruption.
Sending countries could organise regular orientation and briefing courses
not only for migrants who have been selected for employment abroad but also for
people interested in migration. Radio and TV could be utilised for public in-
formation campaigns. Basic courses in Arabic could also be foreseen.
Each of the three strategies outlined will have to grapple with a number
of issues that are independent of the strategy but directly relevant to the
improvement of working and living conditions of the migrants or their dependents
left behind: remittance facilities, acceptable wage rates, welfare fund measures
and institutional arrangements, which will be examined briefly below.
Evidence in the case of Pakistan indicates that better banking facilities
at worksites increase the flow of remittances. However, problems still persist
in the timely receipt of workers' savings by their dependants. The migrant
sending countries should take up this matter with the migrant receiving countries
with a view to (a) the opening of additional bank branches or booths at work-
sites in the Middle East for the receipt and speedy remittal of the amounts
expatriates wish to send; (b) the introduction of mobile banking facilities
or booths at worksites where the establishment of more durable arrangements
may not be justified; and (c) the introduction of convertible currency bonds
to be sold regularly and under supervision at the worksites, which can then
be despatched to beneficiaries under certain rules that would enable them to
encash the bonds immediately at home. This would cut down considerably the
delays at present occurring in the course of regular banking money transfers
and their receipt in remote rural areas of the migrants' home countries. The
convertible bonds could be freely purchased, immediately posted and instantly
Another possibility for expediting the receipt of remittances would be
to introduce a daily courier service. To this effect all concerned banks could
pool their resources, and each day a courier could be flown to various countries
with a pouch containing bank advices. One such courier service already exists
and appears to be operating quite successfully. Where ceilings on money remit-
tances in foreign exchange are prescribed,as is the case in some of the labour
importing countries, this question could be discussed between the governments
of both the sending and receiving countries, to arrive at a mutually beneficial
agreement that would correspond to the needs of the migrants.
Minimum wage rates as understood by the ILO, which have the purpose of
ensuring a basic level of subsistence, are perhaps not the appropriate concept
to apply as far as migrant workers in the capital-rich Arab oil-producing countries
are concerned. Hence this paper refers to acceptable wage rates. The possibi-
lity of fixing acceptable wage rates and terms of employment by categories of
workers should be considered by those migrant sending countries which have not
yet done so. Pakistan, the Philippines and Sri Lanka have fixed certain rates,
although by no means for all categories of workers. This would ensure that
wages and terms of employment are standardised. Wage levels and terms of employ-
ment may be drawn up according to category and country of employment, keeping
in view the cost of living and standard of living in host countries. Rates
could be updated on a regular and periodic basis after market surveys.
Although in some countries the workers contribute to welfare funds set
up in their favour, they appear to benefit rather inadequately from them. The
agencies responsible for the collection and maintenance of welfare funds should
formulate schemes to mobilise the funds so that workers and their dependents
may benefit from them physically and financially. The funds could also develop
programmes to provide assistance to emigrants who meet with untoward incidents
or natural disasters.
- 31 -
The multiplicity of governmental institutions such as the Ministries or
Departments of Labour, Overseas Employment Corporations, Foreign Offices, Immi-
gration Services,etc., dealing with employment abroad is detrimental to the
promotion of healthy practices in the field of recruitment. Often recruitees
and recruiters, if refused clearance by one authority, circumvent the law by
approaching another agency and thereby obtain the necessary clearance, usually
through underhand dealings.
The multiplicity of agencies also causes confusion in the minds of the
prospective migrants, the workers abroad and the foreign employers. They do
not know to whom to address themselves. They often have to move from one agency
to another, exhausting themselves in the process and eventually succumbing to
Clear lines of demarcation should be drawn. It would be desirable to com-
bine the functions of several agencies under one roof. This body could act
as the central agency for (a) the drawing up policies and programmes in respect
of employment abroad and emigration, and (b) the co-ordination of the functions
of other agencies. It should be vested with decision-making power, administra-
tive authority and autonomy. This would not only result in the simplification
of the system and procedures, saving duplication of effort and time, but would
also cut down costs incurred by governments on the maintenance of a number of
top-heavy administrative bodies dealing with one or another aspect of overseas
employment. For the worker and the recruiter also it would be much simpler
to approach one agency instead of having to go to several. There would con-
sequently be less opportunities for corruption.
Although most labour exporting countries have appointed labour welfare
community or liaison officers abroad to look after the conditions and welfare
of their citizens, their numbers fall short of requirements. It is suggested,
therefore, that the sending countries raise the number of their Labour Attaches
and other liaison officers abroad so that they can assist the migrants in speedy
solution of their grievances and problems, in consultation with the concerned
administrative authorities of the host countries.
Conventions and seminars for expatriate workers could be held in their
countries of origin. Governments could sponsor the participation of represen-
tatives of migrants from various countries of employment as well as of reputable
employers both from the public and private sector, in order to provide a joint
forum for the discussion of their problems and of possible solutions, as well
as to impart background information about foreign countries. Besides, migrant
sending countries could also make arrangements for the regular circulation of
national news, features, periodicals and magazines to their expatriates through
their labour attaches or liaison officers abroad.
XI. ACTION AT THE BI-LATERAL LEVEL
The unprecedented outflow of Asian migrants to the Middle East, where labour
administration and welfare institutions have not yet fully developed, has
resulted in putting pressure on the authorities to adopt appropriate policies
and establish institutions to protect the interests of their workers and to
deal effectively with the problems, that have arisen and which have been out-
lined in this paper. The labour importing countries also had to adopt various
measures to prevent the exploitation of migrant workers. Despite these pro-
tective measures, there is evidence to indicate that the migrant is still
the object of exploitation both at home and abroad. The causes of malpractices
have been analysed in Parts I and II. Their underlying reasons are, firstly,
the fact that the policies adopted by both the labour exporting and labour
importing countries are mostly formulated and pursued in isolation, without
joint consultations and without considering the implications, especially in
relation to the individual migrants. Secondly, given that the migrants found
themselves in a buyers market, the sending countries and their citizens are
in a relatively weak situation. The shift in manpower requirements in the
Middle East towards higher skills will put the migrants and their sending
countries in a better position to negotiate more favourable terms and conditions
of employment. To achieve this goal it would be important to conclude bilateral
migration agreements with the countries of employment. Such agreements would
also prove re-assuring to the foreign employers as regards the conduct and
efficiency of migrant workers.
The problems of recruitment, work and life find their origin mainly in
the employment contracts of the migrants and the extent to which these are
implemented and honoured by employers in the countries of the Middle East.
Due to absence of trade unions and collective bargaining, and because
of the weaknesses and limitations inherent in the temporary contract worker
system, the employers are in an advantageous position as far as the implementa-
tion of contractual terms and conditions of employment are concerned. Decisions
of the employers or management are impressed on the migrant workers, few of
whom have the desire or courage to approach higher governmental authorities
or labour courts. To resolve their difficulties the labour administration
bodies in the countries of employment should ensure the observance of -he
terms of the contracts and conditions of employment. If the original contract
were changed, substituted or breached by the employer, a fine or penalty should
be imposed on him. This, of course, will largely depend on the extent to
which the authorities of the countries of employment are willing to co-operate
and exercise control over such issues. Migrants report a general attitude
of apathy and indifference towards them, coupled with a bias towards the em-
ployer. This situation makes the conclusion of bilateral agreements imperative.
It is, therefore, suggested that the labour sending and receiving countries
consider the desirability of entering into bilateral agreements in accordance
with their national conditions, to ensure the honouring of commitments made
to the workers in their employment contracts as regards working and living
conditions, and to eliminate all forms of discrimination against them in matters
of treatment and equality of opportunity, irrespective of their origin or sex.
This concerns contract duration, wages, hours of work, overtime, weekly rest,
holidays with pay, payment of bonus, terminal benefits, compensation and other
- 33 -
payments, housing, food, medical care, social security, travel from the country
of origin to the worksite and back, transport to worksite within the country
of employment, safety, health and hygiene, rest, recreation and welfare, and
Representatives of countries of origin, their labour and welfare attaches,
should regularly be allowed to visit worksites in countries of employment,
to inspect whether the employer is honouring the contract concluded between
him or on his behalf and the migrant workers. In addition, they should examine
any form of discrimination relating to wages, nature of work, facilities,
benefits and welfare that may exist among groups of different ethnic origins
as well as sex-based discrimination. Problems that have come to notice during
these inspections should be reported to the employers and the government autho-
rities concerned. The country of employment could proceed to its own investi-
gation and take appropriate action. Time limits should be fixed for the re-
solution of grievances so that delays do not encourage irregular activities.
The bilateral agreements could also provide a means to combat jointly certain
malpractices such as where the recruiting agents and employers do not adhere
to the laws and regulations of the sending and receiving countries but violate
the terms of foreign service agreements or employment contracts. In these
events one could foresee sanctions and blacklisting. The list of erring re-
cruiters and employers could be circulated between countries for the attention
of both government bodies and employers' organizations.
Bilateral negotiations on minimum terms and conditions of employment
could also be held. In the absence of freedom of association and collective
bargaining in certain host countries it would be desirable, through bilateral
agreements, to institute welfare committees or associations at worksites.
These committees should be composed of tripartite representatives, i.e. of
workers, employers and governments.
Where the nature of grievances or disputes at worksites becomes rather
grave and cannot be settled amicably through existing channels or welfare
committees and other disputes settlement procedures, the sending countries'
Labour Attaches or representatives should be allowed to assist employers and
workers in the solution of their problems. They could, for example, address
a report to the authorities of the host country where the migrant workers
have a justified grievance calling for redress. Such a procedure would have
to be anchored in a bilateral migration agreement.
Bilateral agreements would also be a useful mechanism to improve occupa-
tional health, safety and hygiene standards. One could aim at the appointment
of specially trained supervisors at worksites or establishments with more
than 500 workers, to ensure strict observance of safety precautions. Regular
training courses should be foreseen to acquaint workers with safety devices
and observance of safety rules and regulations. At smaller worksites or es-
tablishments, regular checks could be undertaken by management and host country
Agreements at the bilateral level could regulate social security matters,
where ILO standards should be taken as guidelines. Other matters that could
- 34 -
be regulated through migration agreements are remittances, reunification of
families, protection of expatriate families against harassment, the scope and
limitations of intervention by customs, police and administrative authorities,
and the formalities for solemnisation of marriages, funeral services and
repatriation of dead bodies.
XII. ACTION AT THE SUB-REGIONAL LEVEL
The possibility of sub-regional agreements among both the sending and the
receiving countries should be considered, with a view to ensuring that benefits
of migration are spread to a larger number of countries and migrants. For
example, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka might consider a sub-regional
arrangement for the purposes of migration, and the ASEAN countries might envisage
extending their co-operation into this field.
On the size of the receiving countries, the GCC countries would be the
obvious counterpart, but a wider grouping could be set up in the context of
Each sub-regional group could examine questions such as acceptable wage
rates and minimum terms of employment, working environment and living condi-
tions in the host countries. There is also much scope for joint consultations
and agreements on the outflow of certain categories of manpower such as house-
maids, action against erring recruiters and employers, and programmes to pool
resources for training at the sub-regional level. Last but not least, within
each group there should be a regular exchange of information through seminars
or workshops on any matters of common concern in the field of migration.
A regional grouping of migrant sending countries of the Asian region appears
appropriate at the present juncture. In fact, a body of this kind already
exists on the part of six oil-rich and migrant-receiving countries: the Gulf
Co-operation Council (GCC). The Labour and Social Affairs Ministers of the
GCC decided in April 1984 to conduct a comprehensive study on recruitment,
labour policies, strength of expatriate employment and skills. This is indi-
cative of the realisation on the part of member states of the GCC that the whole ,
question of recruitment of expatriates has to be handled at the regional level
and that co-ordination should take place among GCC member countries.
It is equally advisable to consider regional measures that would promote
better co-operation and co-ordination among Asian labour exporting countries
in the field of overseas employment of their nationals. The Asian labour
exporting countries could initiate a dialogue among themselves by establishing
a regional clearing house plus a data bank. Co-operation could then be extended
into the area of critical skills. Several of the migrant sending countries
and practically all migrant receiving countries are short of certain skills
and these shortages will persist even if their incidence changes in the course
of time. Where one particular migrant sending country were unable or unwilling
to satisfy the demand for skilled labour in the Arab region, appropriate infor-
mation could be passed on within the regional grouping. The clearing house
could also engage in regular studies to assess future manpower requirements
of Middle Eastern countries and relate these to availabilities, training ca-
pacities and plans in the countries forming part of the group. One could even
envisage planning on a regional basis to provide for training and orientation
programmes to meet demand for labour. The data bank and clearing house would
certainly propote the emergence of regional-level technical training programmes.
And if one goes as far as this, it would be natural to consider a further step,
namely the mutual exchange and training of manpower among Asian'countries where
training capacities or skills fall short of requirements.
Co-operation and co-ordination at the regional level could also lead to
a common policy concerning the export of skilled workers to the receiving coun-
tries of the Middle East. Action to obtain better terms of working and living
conditions for expatriate workers in the receiving countries could then be
started at the regional level. It would be helpful to both the sending and
the receiving countries, because implementation of a common policy in respect
of expatriate workers to the countries of employment would remove various mal-
practices existing at present. it would also remove the possibility of recruit-
ment of workers below specified skill levels (and therefore be of interest to
XIII. ACTION AT THE REGIONAL AND GLOBAL LEVELS
Consultations between the labour exporting and labour importing countries
could be foreseen with a view to increasing the understanding of the various
policies relating to recruitment, despatch, arrival and employment of expatriates
in the Middle East. The setting-up of a regional clearing house and data bank
of the Asian labour exporting countries would facilitate access of Middle
Eastern countries to labour information of interest to them. It would also
help to eliminate the present delays and bottlenecks that occur in the selection
and travel arrangements of migrant workers.
Another important component of cross-regional co-ordination could be
regular consultations among the officials of the labour exporting and labour
importing countries in respect of the observance of various laws and regulations
regulating the flow of migrant workers. Organizations of recruiting agents,
employers and workers might conceivably be drawn into these consultations.
At the international level the possibility of introducing internationally
convertible bonds for speedy remittal and encashment of remittances should
also be considered. Interested multinational consortia and international
agencies could work out the modalities of such a system in consultation with
the labour importing and exporting countries.
At the global level it would fall to the ILO to improve the working and
living conditions of migrants through the means at its disposal, i.e. studies,
standard-setting activities at the normative level as well as through education,
for example in the field of occupational safety and health, technical co-opera-
tion and advisory services plus seminars and workshops to analyse information.
One should further take note of the fact that several directly relevan:
international labour standards exist in this field: the Migration for Employ-
ment Convention and Recommendation (Revised), 1949, the Migrant Workers
(Supplementary Provisions) Convention, 1975, and the Migrant Workers Recom-
mendation, 1975. The ratification and application of the two Conventions by
both migrant receiving countries and migrant sending countries would go a long
way to combatting the malpractices that have been exposed in this paper.
- 37 -
XIV. REFERENCES CITED
M. Abella, 1984 "Overseas employment administration : a review of policies
and procedures", in ARPLA, forthcoming (below).
ARPLA, n.d. Overseas employment policies and procedures in East Asian
countries, Report on the ARPLA Symposium on Overseas Recruitment
Procedures for Senior Officials of East Asian Countries, Manila,
Philippines, April 1980 (Bangkok: ILO).
--- 1981 Emigration for employment, Report on ARPLA Symposium on Overseas
Recruitment Procedures for Senior Officials of South Asian Countries,
Islamabad, Pakistan, May 1980 (Bangkok: ILO).
--- forthcoming Overseas employment administration, Report on the ILO/ARPLA
Intercountry Symposium on Overseas Employment Administration, Pattaya,
Thailand, May 1983 (Bangkok:ILO).
J.S. Birks and C.A. Sinclair, 1980 International migration and development
in the Arab region (Geneva: ILO).
W.R. B6hning, 1982 International contract migration in the light of ILO
instruments, with special reference to Asian migrant-sending countries;
Geneva, ILO; mimeographed International Migration for Employment
working paper; restricted.
ECWA, 1982 Demographic and related socio-economic data sheets for countries
of the Economic Commission for Western Asia (Beirut, May).
- 38 -
C. INTERNATIONAL MIGRATION FOR EMPLOYMENT
1. International labour migration and international development, by
C.W. Stahl, Jan. 1982 (out of print).
2. Towards a system of recompense for international labour migration, by
W.R. BUhning, Feb. 1982 (out of print).
3. Contract migration policies in the Philippines, by L.S. Lazo,
V.A. Teodosio and P.A. Sto. Tomas, Mar. 1982.
4. Contract migration in the Republic of Korea, by S. Kim, Apr. 1982.
5. Emigration of scarce skills in Pakistan, by M. Ahmad, May 1982.
6.F Les clandestins et la r4gularisation de 1981-1982 en France, par
J.-P. Garson et Y. Moulier, 10 mai 1982.
6.E Clandestine immigrants and their regularisation in France, 1981-1982,
by J.-P. Garson and Y. Moulier, 10 May 1982.
7. Out of the shadows A review of the 1980 regularisation of status
programme in Australia, by D. Storer with the assistance of
A. Faulkner, June 1982.
8. International contract migration in the light of ILO instruments, with
special reference to Asian migrant-sending countries, by W.R. Bbhning,
July 1982 (out of print).
9.S La amnistia migratoria de 1974 en Argentina, por Lelio Marmora,
9.E The 1974 amnesty for migrants in Argentina, by Lelio Marmora, Feb. 1983.
10.F La libre circulation & l'int4rieur d'une Communautg entire pays en
d4veloppement, par W.R. Bohning, decembre 1983.
10.E Freedom of movement within a community of developing countries, by
W.R. Bohning, Dec. 1983.
11.F L'administration du travail de l'immigr4 en situation irregulibre en
Espagne, en Grece et en Italie, par S. Ricca, janvier 1984.
11.E Administering migrant workers in an irregular situation in Grece, Italy
and Spain, by S. Ricca, Jan. 1984.
12. Recruitment practices and working and living conditions of Asian
migrant workers in the Middle East: Problems and possible solutions,
by Z. Zar, May 1984.
International migration and
development in the Arab region
In 1975 over two-and-a-half million Arab workers and their dependants, as well as
another half-million non-Arabs, were living in Arab countries other than their home-
land. Migration on such a scale is largely the result of economic forces, in particular
the apparently insatiable demand for labour in oil-exporting, capital-rich States
such as the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya and Saudi Arabia.
In this well researched book the authors examine the volume and pattern of
international migration for employment to, from and between the Arab States of
the Middle East and analyse the factors underlying it. In so doing they draw atten-
tion to the advantages and disadvantages of these flows both to the countries of
origin and to the countries of employment, and suggest what might be the conse-
quences of the ever greater recourse now being had by the migrant-receiving
countries to labour from the Indian subcontinent and the Far East. The book con-
cludes by setting out a number of courses that the Arab migrant-sending countries
might consider in order to improve their position vis-a-vis the capital-rich
xii +175 pages 25 Swiss francs ISBN 92-2-102251-X (limp cover)
35 Swiss francs ISBN 92-2-102252-8 (hardcover)
Black migration to South Africa
A selection of policy-oriented research
Edited by W R Bohning
The results of research initiated by the ILO in 1976 into the whole question of Black
migration to South Africa are brought together in this study, which is published
with the financial support of the UN Fund for Population Activities. Taking as their
starting-point the assumption that Black migration to the Republic of South Africa
should be eliminated on both moral and political grounds, the researchers set
themselves two aims: first, to examine how the working and living conditions of
both the migrants and their dependants can be improved as long as migration con-
tinues; and second, to discover what means there are of reducing the dependence
of the migrant-sending countries on job opportunities in South Africa and, in partic-
ular, to consider how the existing migration link can be used to relieve these coun-
tries of their need to send workers to South Africa. The final chapter suggests a
possible plan for the gradual phasing-out of migration over a period of 15 years.
20 Swiss francs ISBN 92-2-102759-7 (limp cover)
30 Swiss francs ISBN 92 2 102758-9 (hard cover)
Trade in place of migration
An employment-oriented study with special reference to the Federal
Republic of Germany, Spain and Turkey
By U. Hiemenz and K. W. Schatz
An important feature of a new international economic order would be an efficient
international division of labour that would encourage a mutually profitable revival of
world trade. The present book is one of a number of case studies carried out under
ILO auspices to quantify some of the factors involved.
After examining in some detail the competitiveness of the industries of the
Federal Republic of Germany, in particular, which is one of the developed countries
already most integrated in world trade, the study estimates the effects of a liberali-
sation of the country's imports on employment in the Republic by industry, by area,
and by the skill, sex and nationality of the workforce. The possibilities of re-employ-
ment in their own countries for the Spanish and Turkish migrant workers who
might well be displaced by such a liberalisation are assessed in a concluding sec-
tion, which contrasts the economic policies recently followed in Spain and Turkey
and points to their employment implications.
x + 118 pages 17.50 Swiss francs ISBN 92-2-101865-2 (limp cover)
27.50 Swiss francs ISBN 92-2-101864-4 (hard cover)