Policy mismatch 'leads to migrant worker woes'
Washington, June 9, 2010
A policy mismatch between the regulatory systems of the UAE and Philippine governments, coupled with difficulties in enforcing regulations, has led to inadequate protections for migrant workers, a report said.
Further, it has led to a continuing flow of unauthorised workers, inspite of the two governments regulating recruitment agencies’ operations for nearly three decades, said the report’s author, Migration Policy Institute (MPI) policy analyst Dovelyn Rannveig Agunias.
In a new report, Migration’s Middlemen: Regulating Recruitment Agencies in the Philippines-United Arab Emirates Corridor, the MPI examines the recruiters’ practices as well as their regulation by the Philippine and UAE governments, finding room for significant improvement.
Private recruitment agencies manage much of the flow of the 200,000 Filipino workers who head to annually to the United Arab Emirates, which is the third-largest destination for Filipino migrants after the United States and Saudi Arabia.
While the recruitment agencies, which are located in the Philippines and the United Arab Emirates, provide critical services such as logistical support and information about visa policies and living and working conditions, some abuse their clients by charging exorbitant fees or violating basic human rights.
The result is a three-tier labor migration system for the nearly 600,000 Filipinos working in the United Arab Emirates (and comprising close to 12 per cent of the UAE population):
• A documented and organised labour migration based on written contracts following strict regulatory guidelines of both countries.
• A labour flow based on shifting arrangements that typically result in a lower wage, a different job, and reduced benefits compared to those originally promised to migrant workers by recruiters.
• An unregulated, unauthorised flow of workers who bypass the recruitment system altogether and migrate to the United Arab Emirates with a visitor visa.
While both countries are considering more stringent regulations for recruitment agencies, the report cautions that both governments must first commit to fully funding and creating capable and effective institutions to jointly harmonise, enforce, and closely monitor the impact of current and new regulations. Otherwise, regulatory changes could open the door to unintended effects, including increasing abuse and corruption and making illegal channels more attractive for prospective migrants, Agunias said.
'The findings of this study are relevant beyond the Philippines-UAE corridor. They serve as a vital point of reference for other countries in the Middle East and elsewhere as they attempt to balance the need to create a flexible and dynamic labour migration system with the obligation to protect workers’ welfare in an increasingly transnational and interconnected global economy,' said Kathleen Newland, who directs MPI’s Migrants, Migration, and Development Program.
The report also makes the case for new initiatives to empower migrants – who fill jobs as domestic workers, engineers, office assistants, and nurses, among other occupations – including a core set of rights and meaningful mechanisms for representation.-TradeArabia News Service