Fair Recruitment and Labour Conditions of Migrant Workers

Project completed

Many of the 105 million people working outside their countries of origin have fallen victim of exploitative practices by unethical recruiters and employers. This project aims to prevent abuses and exploitation of migrant workers. It responds to a demand by the private sector in the global North for ethical standards throughout their supply chains. The Swiss private sector will benefit from stricter standards of recruitment and decent work, while Swiss consumers will profit from consumer goods increasingly produced under fair and ethical standards.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Employment & economic development
Labour migration
Migration generally (development aspects and partnerships)
Employment creation
01.10.2018 - 30.06.2022
CHF  6’084’022
Background Many women and men are compelled to look for jobs abroad due to a lack of opportunities in their countries of origin. A variety of factors contribute to recruitment abuses by informal intermediaries and unscrupulous private employment agencies. Migrant workers are often prevented from organizing and collectively bargain on working and living conditions. Weak labour migration governance, regulation and enforcement in countries of origin and/or destination creates incentives for non-compliant behaviour. Existing regulations in many countries often fail to uphold international human and labour standards and do not effectively address abusive recruitment practices.

Reduction in deceptive and coercive practices during the recruitment process and violations of fundamental principles and rights at work of international migrant workers through increased safe migration options, effective regulation of public and private employment agencies, and accountability of all actors.

Switzerland will profit twofold: The Swiss private sector will benefit from a stricter application of standards of recruitment and decent work in other countries, which is expected to reduce salary dumping and informal work. Swiss consumers will be able to purchase more goods that are produced under fair and ethical labour standards.

Target groups Governments, workers and employers’ organizations, as well as private employment agencies, cooperatives, civil society actors and media outlets. By cooperating with and supporting these stakeholders and target groups, the project will ultimately work to improve labour recruitment practices and the protection of women and men migrant workers in the target countries (Jordan, Nepal, Philippines and Tunisia) and regions (South Asia, Middle East/GCC countries, Sub-Sahara Africa, Europe), as well as for migrant workers globally.
Medium-term outcomes

The main objectives are:

  1. Key stakeholders take action towards implementing fair recruitment processes in selected migration corridors.
  2. The International Recruitment Integrity System (IRIS) is recognized as a credible system with a global footprint. It is used by private sector, government and civil society stakeholders for due diligence, advocacy and capacity building.
  3. Knowledge and guidance about fair recruitment has been produced, disseminated, and used to influence global and national policies.

Expected results:  

Key stakeholders in the corridor Nepal to Jordan have improved their capacities to fairly recruit workers in the garment sector. A pilot intervention to create a fair recruitment corridor between Nepal and Qatar in the construction sector is designed and tested. Key stakeholders in the Philippines and Hong Kong SAR have improved their capacities to fairly recruit workers in the domestic work sector. Public Tunisian entities have improved their capacities to implement and monitor fair recruitment processes.

An individualized mentoring and guidance program on the practical application of the IRIS Standard in daily business operation of labour recruiters is developed and implemented. IRIS is rolled-out in two additional priority regions (Sub-Sahara Africa and Eastern Europe). The internal IRIS governance structure will be further strengthened, which should lead to make IRIS an independent and self-funding organisation.

Results from previous phases:  

Along the Jordan-Nepal fair recruitment corridor, Nepalese workers have been trained on an agreed skills training program and placed in Jordan garment factories. In Tunisia persuading tripartite constituents to discuss the issue of regulation of recruitment is a significant success, given the mutual distrust which has historically existed between social partners. At global level, ILO’s General Principles and Operational Guidelines for Fair Recruitment were adopted. A new online platform “Recruitment Advisor was launched to allow migrants to rate labour recruiters and link those who face abuses to response systems. 

The project “International Recruitment Integrity System (IRIS), implemented by IOM, set up a global, voluntary, multi-stakeholder certification system for international labour recruiters. Pilot testing of IRIS took place in selected migration corridors and key economic sectors. Recruitment agencies in the Philippines have been assessed with regard to compliance with IRIS. IRIS hasalso been rolled-out in Nepal and Bangladesh. Recruiters have been identified in both countries and engaged to build their capacity and prepare for IRIS certification. IRIS has been piloted within the labour supply chains of several multinational companies in South East Asia. A governance structure to preserve IRIS impartiality and transparency was developed.

Insights: In order to promote fair recruitment and decent work conditions for migrant workers, a clear international normative framework is crucial. This allows to advocate with key stakeholders and implement agreed standards at the country level. Fair recruitment should not be promoted to a country where prevailing working conditions are notoriously poor; otherwise fair recruitment can contribute to institutionalize forced labour.

Directorate/federal office responsible SDC
Credit area Development cooperation
Project partners Contract partner
Private sector
United Nations Organization (UNO)
  • International Labor Organization
  • International Organisation for Migration
  • Swiss Private Sector

Other partners

Contract partners


Other partners:

Governments, private sector, unions, migrants’ organizations, civil society

Coordination with other projects and actors Decent work SA and ME; KNOMAD; SECO, DEZA E+I; DFID, USAID, Canada, EU, Netherlands
Budget Current phase Swiss budget CHF    6’084’022 Swiss disbursement to date CHF    6’072’343
Project phases Phase 99 01.02.2022 - 31.12.2024   (Current phase)

Phase 2 01.10.2018 - 30.06.2022   (Completed)

Phase 1 01.07.2015 - 31.12.2018   (Completed)