Myanmar Overseas Employment Agencies Explore Pathways to More Ethical Recruitment

Myanmar recruitment specialists meet in Yangon to discuss ethical recruitment and the International Recruitment Integrity System (IRIS) certification process. Photo: IOM

Yangon – The UN Migration Agency (IOM) is hosting an introductory workshop on ethical recruitment standards and the International Recruitment Integrity System (IRIS) certification process for 25 private recruitment agency members of the Myanmar Overseas Employment Agencies Federation (MOEAF) and staff of Myanmar’s Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population.

The two-day event in Yangon, (12-13 November), aims to increase the recruiters’ understanding of the steps towards an ethical recruitment business model, and to provide practical information on what recruiters need to demonstrate in their management systems to become IRIS-certified.

The Government of Myanmar estimates that some 4.25 million Myanmar nationals are living abroad. Of these, 89 per cent leave Myanmar in search of work – primarily in neighbouring Thailand. Migrant workers are particularly vulnerable to exploitation.

On their journey they can be exploited by unscrupulous brokers who may charge excessive fees for their services, provide misleading information about jobs offered, or withhold migrants’ identification documents. At their workplace, migrants may be subject to abuse, forced labour or long working hours for little or no pay.

 U Win Shein, Director General of the Department of Labour under the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population encouraged workshop participants to seek practical ways to comply with IRIS standards and improve migration for Myanmar nationals.

“We take pride in having the opportunity to conduct this workshop to promote ethical recruitment practices, which would benefit not only our recruitment industry and my Ministry, but also the whole of Myanmar,” he said.

“I believe that participants will better understand the risks and challenges of the current recruitment model and recognize how moving towards ethical practices can lead to better results,” said U Peter Nyunt Maung, Chairman of the MOEAF.

IRIS is a global social compliance scheme developed by IOM and a coalition of like-minded partners from government, civil society and the private sector to promote ethical international labour recruitment, which includes ensuring that employers, rather than workers, pay all recruitment fees.

IRIS, which sets a benchmark for ethical recruitment, is currently piloting a voluntary certification system for ethical labour recruiters that will help identify and support ethical international recruiters in global markets. For businesses and migrant workers, IRIS will serve as a due diligence tool for the assessment of labour recruiters.

By adopting the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration in December 2018, governments worldwide will commit to review existing recruitment mechanisms to guarantee that they are fair and ethical, including by taking into consideration the IRIS framework.

IOM Myanmar Chief of Mission Akio Nakayama recognized the government and other partners in Myanmar for their close cooperation in the field of labour migration. “We stand ready to continue our support to Myanmar to harness the benefits of migration through a whole-of-government and a whole-of-society approach,” he said.

At a time when companies and brands are increasingly under scrutiny by consumers and governments on their business practices and treatment of workers in direct operations and supply chains, it is important for international recruitment agencies to be prepared to meet changing employer demands.

The IRIS workshop was designed to enable the recruiters to provide services that proactively and effectively protect and uphold the rights of migrant workers throughout the international recruitment process. 

The event was supported by the Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC)-funded regional project: Poverty Reduction through Safe Migration, Skills Development and Enhanced Job Placement (PROMISE), implemented by IOM in Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic.

PROMISE promotes better employment opportunities and working conditions for migrants, especially women from Myanmar, Cambodia and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, through skills development and safe migration in partnership with the private sector, training institutions, civil society and government stakeholders. SDC also supports the development of IRIS at the global level.

For more information please contact Akio Nakayama at IOM Myanmar. Tel. +95 1523509, Email: