19-20 July 2010  Ha Noi, Viet Nam


1.    The 3rd ASEAN Forum on Migrant Labour was held on 19-20 July 2010 in Ha Noi, Viet Nam. Participants included representatives from the government, workers’ and employers’ organizations, and civil society organizations of nine ASEAN Member States, the ASEAN Secretariat, the International Labour Organization (ILO), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the Task Force for ASEAN Migrant Workers (TF-AMW) and UNIFEM.

2.    The purpose of the Forum was to provide an open platform for discussion and the exchange of views and ideas among stakeholders on labour migration issues, with specific attention to the theme of enhancing awareness and ensuring access to information for the protection of the rights of migrant workers.


3.    The Forum was officially opened by H.E. Mr. Nguyen Thanh Hoa, Vice Minister of Viet Nam’s Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs. In his remarks, he noted the importance of the Forum’s theme on “Enhancing Awareness and Information Services to Protect the Rights of Migrant Workers”, and its relevance to all of the ASEAN member states. He expressed his hopes that the Forum will result in recommendations and follow-up actions that will result in the better protection of migrant workers. He thanked participants for their attendance and wished the Forum a great success.  

4.    Dr. Donald Tambunan, Director of Social-Cultural Cooperation in the ASEAN Secretariat, thanked the Government of Viet Nam and MOLISA for hosting the Forum in Hanoi, and the warm hospitality extended. He spoke about how the Declaration on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers, signed in 2007, gave the Member States a clear mandate and direction. He noted that despite the diverse national interests and challenges within each of the countries, there remains a broad commitment to fulfilling the leaders’ call. To promote the implementation of the Declaration, the ASEAN Labour Ministers’ decided to institutionalize the Forum as an annual meeting. The active participation of workers’ and employers’ organizations, recruitment agencies and civil society organizations is important to the establishment of a people-oriented ASEAN that reaches to all corners of society. He encouraged all parties to sustain this engagement with a range of social partners.

5.    Dr. Tambunan noted that the selection of the theme is appropriate and timely, as information and services are crucial elements in the protection, and all partners need to have their information and capacities updated and strengthened. To assist in the sharing of information, the ACMW has compiled a repository of laws and policies on migration within ASEAN that will shortly be uploaded on the ASEAN web portal. This is just one of the many projects that needs to be undertaken, and Dr. Tambunan expressed a hope that this workshop will result in the sharing of good practices and a set of recommendations for future action.


7.     Ms Thetis Mangahas, Senior Regional Migration Specialist for the ILO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, made a presentation entitled Promoting Safe and Legal Migration for Decent Work Quality Information at Source, Transit and Destination. It is attached as ANNEX C.

8.    Ms. Mangahas explained that migration within and from the ASEAN region makes up an estimated 9% of global migration and is expected to continue to increase as a result of economic and demographic factors. The growth of migration in the region is accompanied by several challenges, including irregular migration and the resulting security and vulnerability problems; recruitment abuses that lead to indebtedness among migrant workers; the exploitation of labour migrants, particularly those in occupations usually excluded from labour protection laws; and the social costs, such as brain drain, left-behind children, and overdependence on remittances. Ms. Mangahas noted that despite these challenges, the goal of decent work applies across borders and opportunities for women and men migrant workers to obtain decent and productive work, in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity should be promoted.

9.    All countries have noted the importance of providing migrants with information and services on how to migrate safely and legally, and on their rights at work. The Declaration on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers outlines sending and receiving countries’ obligations with regard to the provision of information and services.  Some of the barriers encountered include the accessibility of information and services  in terms of language, long working hours, isolation and limited interaction with host communities, and lack of confidence in approaching services. Ms Mangahas highlighted a few examples of good practices from the ASEAN region, from governments, employers’ and workers’ organizations, and civil society organizations. She also identified several ASEAN level initiatives that can strengthen the delivery of information and services.

Panel 1. Promoting Decent Work for Migrants through Information Services
Moderator Mr. Dao Cong Hai, Deputy Director, DOLAB, MOLISA.

Education and Outreach to Foreign Workers in Singapore
Mr. Mike Ho, Ministry of Manpower, Singapore

10.    Mr. Ho opened his presentation with a brief overview on the number and type of migrant workers in Singapore. There are currently 1m migrant workers in Singapore, and the Prime Minister recently declared that 100,000 more foreign workers are needed to meet growing needs of the economy. The MOM issues three types of work permits depending on skills and income levels. There are 900,000 low-skilled work permit holders who have a lower bargaining position and are more vulnerable.

11.    Mr. Ho went on to explain the different programmes designed to raise awareness of migrant workers’ rights and responsibilities. Pre-departure information begins with In-Principal Approval (IPA) letters sent to work permit holders in their home countries before they depart for Singapore. The letter advises workers to first obtain a copy of their contract with salary and employment terms, and goes on to provide information on how the employer should bear the costs for the application, foreign worker levy, compulsory training courses, etc. In addition, orientation videos on social norms and illegal migration are screened at overseas skills test centers.

12.    Once in Singapore, migrant workers receive post-arrival education and outreach. This includes a guidebook issued in their native language, orientation videos on their rights, safety courses for certain industries, etc. Information campaigns are conducted on public transport and on roadshows. Mr. Ho also noted that there is a need to educate employers, and the MOM issues media releases on illegal employment cases, pamphlets on labour rights and compliance with the law, etc.

13.    Mr. Ho explained that extra measures are taken to protect foreign domestic workers because of the specific vulnerabilities faced in the sector. FDWs are required to attend a Safety Awareness Course, and first-time employers must attend a compulsory orientation programme, either in a classroom setting or online. A newsletter is published and distributed regularly. Mr. Ho ended his presentation by screening part of the MOM video for domestic workers.

The Role and Reach of Trade Unions
Mr. G. Rajasekaran, Secretary General, MTUC and President, ITUC Asia Pacific

14.    Mr. Rajasekaran pointed out that in contrast to the happy ending for the domestic worker in the Singapore Ministry of Manpower’s orientation video, thousands of migrant workers are enduring torturous conditions in Malaysia. Malaysia receives workers from many countries, including seven ASEAN countries. Despite the laws enacted to protect migrant workers, implementation on the ground is minimal. Mr. Rajasekaran called for closer regulation of the recruitment industry, and clarification on the law with regard to migrants’ right to join trade unions.

15.    In the last 4-5 years, the MTUC have met regularly with workers  in their offices and through community outreach. The MTUC has full-time officers and volunteers troubleshooting on everything from unlawful dismissals, conflict resolution, and provision of legal assistance. Although MOUs exist between the MTUC and trade unions in sending countries, Mr. Rajasekaran said that cooperation efforts should be deepened. MTUC get pressure from trade unions in sending countries to do more to protect migrant workers, but he feels that trade unions in sending countries could make a greater effort in working to address the abuses in the recruitment of migrants, in informing pre-departure training, and in improving communication and responding to information requests from Malaysia. In addition, he suggested that the labour attaches in a number of embassies in Malaysia can play a more active role in addressing the challenges faced by the citizens in their countries.

16.    Mr. Rajasekaran ended his presentation by providing an update from the discussion at the International Labour Conference in June 2010 on the adoption of a standard on Decent Work for Domestic Workers. The ILC in 2011 will be vote on a draft Convention, but only two of the ASEAN member states voted for a binding Convention, the remainder either abstained or voted for a Recommendation.

17. In response to Mr. Rajasekaran’s comments on the need for tighter regulation of the recruitment industry, during the Q&A session, the representative from the MOHR stated that the Malaysian Government has stopped issuing licenses to recruitment agencies and has blacklisted several agencies. The Government is in the process of amending the law to improve conditions. She also clarified the laws which relate to the trade union rights of migrant workers.

18.    The representative from the Malaysian Employers Federation made an intervention in the Q&A session in which he called for labour attachés to play more of a role in protecting foreign workers. He felt that the Indonesian Embassy was one of the few embassies conducting activities and extending cooperation to protect workers from their countries.

The Role of the Philippines Overseas Labour Office (POLO)
Mr. Melchor Dizon, Philippines Overseas Employment Administration

19.    The number of Overseas Filipino Workers deployed in 2009 reached 1.4m, a 15.1% increase on the previous year. To provide assistance to OFWs, there are 34 POLOs around the world. Mr. Dizon provided an overview of the POLO, its mandate, programmes, staffing, etc. POLO services include the verification of employment documents and job orders, the processing of returning workers, etc. The hold an employers’ orientation seminar and work with OFWs on skills training and upgrading, livelihood protects, counseling services and legal assistance, medical assistance, family welfare assistance, etc. There are 20 Filipino Resource Centers that provide round the clock information and welfare assistance. Mr. Dizon identified limited personnel at destination as the primary challenge  especially considering the number of migrants in certain countries/cities. Therefore, the POLO’s recognize the need to cooperate with migrant community and NGOs. The secondary challenge he identified was the inability to provide irregular migrants with orientation seminars, which puts them at risk of abuse.

20.    Mr. Dizon was asked about how these programmes were funded. All services conducted by POLO are free to OFWs; the funding is provided by the Government of the Philippines, under the DOLE budget. Mr. Dizon was also asked about whether the POEA conducted an impact assessment on the efficacy of the information services. The POEA reviews reports submitted by partners and local government units to determine whether they comply with the requirements of the pre-employment and pre-departure orientation seminars, and the OFW helpdesk. They measure the efficacy of information services by analyzing data on the number of people assisted and cases of illegal recruitment filed at regional trial courts. In both cases, they have seen a downward trend, which they interpret as the delivery of improved services and an effective campaign.

Information of Legal Regulations for Foreign Workers in Viet Nam
Mr. Le Quang Trung, Deputy Director, Bureau for Employment, MOLISA

21.    Mr. Le Quang Trung spoke about the legal regulations for recruiting and managing foreigners working in Viet Nam, as stipulated in provisions in the Labour Code and guiding documents  particularly Decree No.34/2008 and MOLISA Circular No.08/2008. He expressed that foreign workers play an important role in filling skills needs and sustaining economic growth in Viet Nam. He addressed the following subjects the requirements for a foreigner working in VN; enterprises and organizations recruiting foreigners in VN; recruitment requirements for foreigners; and the issuance and extension of work permits.

Panel II Promoting Safe and Legal Migration through Pre-Employment and Pre-Departure Training Programs
Moderator Ms Nguyen Thi Han Van, Deputy Director of the Bureau of Employment, MOLISA.

Safe Migration for Women Workers in the ASEAN
Ms Suzette Mitchell, Country Representative, UNIFEM

22.    Ms Mitchell presented on behalf of the UNIFEM Regional Programme Director, Ms Moni Pizon. She began by emphasizing that a gender sensitive approach must be rights-based, and a rights-based approach must be gender sensitive. In the region, there is a feminization of migration, with women comprising over 60% of migrant workers from Indonesia and the Philippines. Women tend to be concentrated in low-skilled jobs and in the informal sector, particularly in domestic work.

23.    There is a high demand for women migrant workers, because of certain stereotyped skills that encourage the recruitment of women in certain sectors. Moreover, there is an aging population in destination countries that leads to increased needs for care workers  in the house or elderly homes; etc. From the supply side, women are usually the poorest and lower skilled, they suffer from gender discrimination. In many countries, sending women workers overseas is part of the development strategy.

24.    Ms Mitchell then put forward recommendations for pre-departure training; for example, it should be mandatory, standardized, gender-sensitive, rights-based, and take into account of patriarchal perceptions of ‘good women’, etc. She recommended gender-sensitive and rights-based information and awareness raising strategies that cover the greater disadvantages faced by women, and involve a range of stakeholders, including the media.

The Role of VAMAS in Enhancing Awareness and Information Services to Protect the Rights of Migrant Workers
Mr. Nguyen Luong Trao, Chairman, Viet Nam Association of Manpower Supply

25.    Given that 85-90% of migrants in Viet Nam go through recruitment agencies, strategies to enhance their awareness requires building the capacity of the recruitment agencies and the enterprises engaged in sending migrant workers abroad. Enhancing service quality requires enhancing the quality of the enterprises.  Mr. Trao gave a presentation on their role in sending workers overseas, with a focus on the recently developed Code of Conduct. The Code of Conduct is a supplementary tool to help enterprises to better comply with the law and international standards. In preparing the Code of Conduct, VAMAS studied relevant international instruments, reviewed comparable tools from around the world, and conducted a survey on the risks faced at all stages of the migration process. Mr. Trao went on to explain the three main sections of the Code of Conduct.

26.    Mr. Trao also highlighted the need to enhance the quality of the pre-departure orientation  in terms of the curriculum as well as the quality of the trainers. VAMAS works with its members to provide information on the situation in destination countries, provide ToT trainings and develop training materials (manuals, DVDs, guidebooks, etc.) adapted to the specific conditions of each destination country. For example, information on customs and traditions, rights of workers, laws to observe, how to remit money, etc.

Pre-Departure Training by Government Agencies
Mr. Thawatchai Leaksumrit, Chief of Alien Employment Controlling System Development Sub-Division, Ministry of Labour, Thailand

27.    Mr. Leaksumrit opened by providing some information about migration in Thailand. The country is both a migrant sending (481,000 outbound) and receiving country (1.2m inbound). He went on to discuss some of the articles of the Recruitment and Jobseekers Protection Act that relate to the protection of migrant workers going overseas. The Act states that recruitment agencies must bring the jobseekers who have already been selected to attend a pre-departure orientation conducted by Department of Employment. This is free of charge and provides basic knowledge about culture, working conditions, living conditions, their contract, rights at work, etc. The pre-departure training also informs the migrant workers about the scope of services provided by the government when they need assistance.

28.    Mr. Leaksumrit’s presentation also included information on the assessment of the pre-departure training. Self-assessment questionnaires are prepared, and job-seekers take pre- and post-training tests.

Current Situation of Indonesian Migrants Pre-Employment and Pre-Departure Training
Mr. Chairul Hadi-Azhar, Secretary General, Indonesian Migrant Workers’ Union (SBMI)

29.    Mr. Hadi first presented a general picture of the situation of migrant workers, including their vulnerabilities. According to their surveys, 72% of Indonesian migrant workers are in the informal sector, and 73-76% are women. Mr. Hadi highlighted a number of challenges faced by migrant workers. Many migrate through illegal channels, partially because of the costs involved; for example, each migrant must pay 39 different charges.

30.    Pre-departure information and training is mostly provided through middlemen, families and friends. According to Mr. Hadi, the government provides minimal information and do not do enough to regulate the private sector. The skills training programme was halved from 200 hours to 100 hours, and the pre-departure orientation was shortened from 20 hours to 8 hours. The curriculum does not provide enough information on rights at work, and there is a need to enhance the quality of trainers. Of the 600+ agencies, only three big agencies have good training facilities.

31.    The Indonesian Migrant Workers’ Union cooperates closely with other trade unions and CSOs in Indonesia to deliver monthly pre-departure training in the community, and conduct case discussion with migrants. They work with the Pondok Pesantren (Islamic Community School) to deliver the training. Mr. Hadi recommended that service quality should be improved and delivered under one roof.

Labour Dispatch and Protection for Vietnamese Workers Overseas
Mr. Dao Cong Hai, Deputy Director, DOLAB, MOLISA

32.    Mr. Hai gave an overview of the labour dispatch program of Viet Nam, focusing on the period since 2000. In the past ten years, Viet Nam has licensed 168 recruitment agencies to send workers to over 40 countries are territories around the world. The most popular destinations include Malaysia, Korea, Japan, Taiwan and Lao PDR. Annual remittances now total between USD 1.6 and 2bn.

33.    There are several ministries and partners involved in the protection of Vietnamese workers abroad. In 2007, the Law on Contract-Based Overseas Workers came into effect and provides increased protection for migrants. As mentioned by Mr. Trao from VAMAS, recruitment agencies have an obligation to organize training for migrants, and monitor, manage and protect their legitimate interests. Viet Nam has eights consular protection offices headed by a Labour Attache. Their role includes facilitating the implementation of the workers’ rights in cooperation with related authorities in the receiving countries.
34.    Mr. Hai expressed a wish to expand international cooperation further in terms of negotiating agreements with receiving countries and sharing experiences to protect the rights of migrant workers. Planned measures in the promotion of protection of workers abroad include a study into formulating a new policy to assist in forming competitive recruitment agencies, building local capacities to fulfill their responsibilities, strengthening the mechanisms to deal with those that violations, etc. 

Workshop Discussions

35.    Participants split into two discussion groups to discuss information services and put forward recommendations. The discussions were moderated by Mr. Sinapan Samydorai, the TF-AMW Convenor, and Mr. Bruno Maltoni from IOM.

36.    Following the discussions, a set of six recommendations were prepared by a drafting team made up of the moderators, rapporteurs and Forum organizers.

Moderator Ms Le Kim Dung, Deputy Director, International Cooperation Department, MOLISA.

37.    The six draft recommendations that emerged from the previous days’ discussion groups were presented to the plenary for comment and debate. Ms Dung chaired a panel discussion to provide additional comments on the Recommendations, including Dr. Tambunan, Mr. Maltoni and Mr. Samydorai.

38.    There was some debate on the extent to which international legal frameworks should be the base for the provision of information and services. There was a call for the UN Convention on the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers to be included in Recommendation 1, but it was decided that these Recommendations should be workable, and there is low ratification in the region at present. Representatives from the Malaysian MOHR called for a re-phrasing as follows Enhancing awareness and information services on decent and productive work for all workers, in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity. The awareness and information services should include the ILO Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, and their basic human rights in line with legislation of the ASEAN Member States. In the end, the wording under Recommendation 1 was amended to ensure that it more accurately reflected the theme of the Forum.

39.    There were concerns raised from Malaysian MOHR and Singaporean MOM with regard to the clause in Recommendation 3 on monitoring. Other participants felt that improving the quality of information and service providers required monitoring against the standards outlined in national and international legislation and commitments. In the end a compromised was reached and more subtle language used.

40.    Under Recommendation 6, the Malaysian MOHR raised a concern about the sharing of laws or policies on migration that could be considered confidential. They therefore proposed the inclusion of the following clause \"...pursuant to the laws, policies and regulations of the respective ASEAN Member States”. It was agreed to only share “publicly available” information.

41.    The Recommendations of the 3rd ASEAN Forum on Migrant Labour,  Viet Nam, as Chair of the ASEAN, will submit them to the ACMW who will then submit them for endorsement from the SLOM.


42.    The representatives of the workers, employers and civil society organizations, and the ASEAN Secretariat thanked MOLISA and the Forum organizers for the opportunity to come together and share their perspectives. They were pleased to agree on a set of recommendations, but called for efforts to follow up and deliver on the recommendations. The delegate from the Indonesian Government announced that Indonesia, as the Chair of the ASEAN in 2011, will host the 4th ASEAN Forum on Migrant Labour next year, and will bring together a broad group of stakeholders to continue efforts to implement the Declaration on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers.

The End