Policy area

Bilateral arrangements

Origin and destination states often formalise their agreements in the field of labour through either non-binding MOUs or binding bilateral labour agreements. Many of these arrangements are basic documents that simply provide an agreed basis for the private sector to recruit workers in the corridor. In these instances, they are unlikely to impact workers significantly. In other cases, bilateral mechanisms establish the basis for government-to-government recruitment or include other specific measures that directly address the recruitment and terms of employment for migrant workers. This is an examination of how each government under study uses bilateral arrangements, their consistency with principles of fair recruitment, and the extent to which they actually protect workers in the recruitment cycle.

Bilateral arrangements

    Accessibility (3.1)

    This indicator examines how easy it is to access bilateral labour agreements. Under the ILO General Principles and Operational Guidelines on Fair Recruitments (ILO GPOG) Guideline 13.1, bilateral agreements “should be made public and migrant workers should be informed of their provisions”. Many MOUs on labour migration are not made public, making it difficult for workers and organizations that represent and support them to activate fair recruitment provisions, where these exist.

    Fair recruitment in negotiation (3.2)

    Negotiations tend to prioritise the organised movement of people, rather than their safety and protection. This often reflects the political priorities for both origin and destination countries, which are primarily concerned with increasing migration due to its economic benefits. This indicator examines the extent to which governments prioritise fair recruitment in the negotiating and drafting of bilateral agreements.

    International standards (3.3)

    Bilateral agreements should incorporate or be consistent with relevant internationally recognised human rights and labour standards, in line with ILO GPOG Guideline 13. In many instances, references to the rights of workers are minimal. This indicator examines the consistency of each government’s bilateral labour agreements with this principle.

    Mechanisms in agreement (3.4)

    This indicator examines whether or not bilateral agreements contain specific mechanisms on fair recruitment (in line with ILO GPOG Guideline 13.1). These mechanisms could include, for example, consular protection, collaboration on enforcement, and coordination on closing regulatory gaps.

    Implementation and oversight (3.5)

    Many bilateral labour agreements lack follow-up measures to ensure their effective implementation. This indicator examines whether bilateral arrangements are accompanied by effective implementation and review measures, including transparent oversight mechanisms that involve employer and worker organisations.