Frankly Speaking: Role of middlemen in recruitment of migrant workers

This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on June 27, 2022 - July 03, 2022.
Frankly Speaking: Role of middlemen in recruitment of migrant workers
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Malaysia is again reminded of the presence of middlemen in the recruitment of migrant workers, upon whom much of the economy is dependent on. 

Last week, the Minister of Human Resources Datuk Dr M Saravanan said the 25 companies selected for the recruitment of Bangladeshi workers were an increase from the original 10. 

In fact, another 250 companies will be accredited to avoid monopolistic tendencies and abuse, while creating greater accessibility to potential workers, he had said. 

These 250 companies will be selected from the list of 1,520 recruitment companies provided from Bangladesh, from which the 25 companies were previously chosen. However, the Ministry of Human Resources (MoHR) will still deal only with the initially chosen 25 companies.

It is not clear what criteria were used for the selection of the original 10, 25 or 250. Why is it that the MoHR will only deal with the 25 companies? 

It is a fact that unscrupulous middlemen involved in recruiting migrant workers charge exorbitant fees for their employment. 

The selection of these companies by MoHR also puts them in a “privileged” position which could be easily abused. Are measures in place to prevent this from happening? 

One way around this is to allow employers to recruit directly in source countries. 

However, not all employers will be able to do this and will still need the services of agents or middlemen. 

A pertinent question is whether the enlarged pool of recruiters addresses the issue of migrant worker abuse at a time when employers made up of small and big companies along the global supply chain are increasingly coming under scrutiny from an environmental, social and governance perspective.

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