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Dhaka Tribune

Study: 96% of workers going to Malaysia fall into recruitment debt

The study also said that 82% had two or more loans and 73% of workers spent at least 50% to 100% of their monthly salary to repay recruitment debts

Update : 09 May 2024, 11:46 PM

At least 96% of migrant workers going to Malaysia said that they have to take at least one loan to pay recruitment fees which include document attainment, medical exams, and travel to or from the host country, according to a study.

The study also said that 82% had two or more loans and 73% of workers spent at least 50% to 100% of their monthly salary to repay recruitment debts.

Moreover, 43% reported experiencing wage deception (received less wages than promised) and 63% of the sample responding to the question about frequency of worry reported that they worry about recruitment debt every day.

The study “Fostering Fee Accountability and Cost Tracking (FFACT)” jointly conducted by four labour ethics and workers’ rights organizations like Verité, Sheva Consultants, BOMSA, and WARBE-DF using a free mobile app called Just Good Work was presented yesterday. 

The study was conducted on 500 migrant workers in Malaysia between 2018-2023 where they analyzed 357 interviews and finally accepted 240 respondents.

According to the study, a Bangladeshi migrant worker to Malaysia has to pay Tk5,44,00 on average, equivalent to at least one year's wages in foreign employment.

The study also said that low-waged migrant workers underpin much of the global economy and are among the most vulnerable to serious exploitation, including debt bondage and forced labour.

Samara Khan, executive director of Sheva Consultants Limited, said that migrant workers usually take loans from the informal sector and they pay it directly to a third party.

“For this reason, there are no reliable data sources. However, our organization has directly talked with the migrant workers,” she added.

She also said that the workers need wages of at least one year to repay their loans and their interests.

Companies and brands in Malaysia come under greater scrutiny of new Human Rights Due Diligence legislation and there is an increased demand for accurate, fair, and transparent recruitment cost data, she added.

Sheikh Rumana, general secretary of BOMSA, said that the government should build awareness nationwide about third parties and over-paying.

Probir Kumer Biswas of BOMSA urged campaigns like public health activities, in e.g vaccination, saline, HIV or other campaigns to raise awareness among rural workers.

Shuhrawardy Hussain, deputy director of WARBE, said that the supply chain of migrant workers must be kept safe and secure.

He also said that if the government again pauses the official recruitment to Malaysia, the cases of human trafficking by sea will increase significantly.

The study also said that there are top risk factors for the workers like a complex and non-transparent labor supply chain, bound to any job due to exceptionally high debt, and recruitment of jobs via a sub-agent "dalal" and so on.

The study recommended that the employers should adhere to an employer-pays recruitment model as directed by the ILO and Bangladesh Labor Act.

Employers and the brands that purchase from them can and should actively monitor and engage in oversight of the entire recruitment process from sending to the host country, it also suggested.

Implementing a neutral and rigorous monitoring of intermediaries providing recruitment services is also a must.

It also suggested to promote greater transparency in the labor supply chain by encouraging workers to report recruitment costs for reimbursement or elimination of fees and costs.

Interventions focusing on elimination of recruitment fees (service fees paid to a dalal and/or recruitment agent) is also important.

It also suggested promoting accurate and thorough calculation of recruitment costs by focusing on formalization vs investing in monitoring of service providers.

Integration of the role of the third parties into the recruitment process such that their business practices can be efficiently monitored and controlled to eliminate exploitation of migrant workers, it also suggested.

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