Workers Recruitment Companies:“Sending workers for employment overseas is not like sending products abroad for selling.”

By Sun Narin

Phnom Penh Post, Constructive Cambodian

Living in a place without wielding freedom like other people is like living under pressure and suppression. Mistreatment, cheating, exploitation, and trafficking are still the heat issue in working abroad. A number of workers who want to work abroad through the local recruitment firms have been facing the problem.

Sending Cambodia’s labor force to work abroad is the government’s policy to reduce unemployment in the country. However, welfare, rights and freedom protection and providing while training and working overseas have to be guaranteed for the workers from the recruitment companies.

According to Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training, thirty two recruitment companies training domestic workers for overseas employment have been operated in Cambodia. Before going abroad, workers are required to get through three-month training program in the company so that they can learn how to speak the language, how to do housework and other related work and ethical performance. However, their freedom seems to be limited and constrained by the companies and employers. They are not allowed to go outside the company while they are trained and not permitted to use telephone, to some extent, to contact the family. Some workers say that they are even not allowed to meet the family so often. Within some companies, all the workers are required to cut short hair which people find it strange comparing to other girls. It seems that they are losing freedom. What are the interests those companies can gain of doing like that?

According to Phnom Penh Post article issued on August 30, 2010, police in Phnom Penh raided a labor recruitment training center run by firm APMN to release a 27-year-old woman who was reported that she had to be detained and forced to live in cramped quarters during training program. The Phnom Penh Post reported in March that a 35-year-old trainee for working abroad died at the offices of T&P Co Ltd, a company training domestic workers for overseas employment and a 31-year-old who broke both legs while trying to escape the centre from a third-floor window and other 8 workers were helped to be released from the company.

Most of the workers are uneducated people who come from the countryside. They do not know anything about working abroad, but they want to work abroad by thinking that they can find good money for the family. After being trained in the company for a short period of time, some workers are not able to adjust to the condition of limited freedom. They find it difficult to live in such a situation, so they want to quit going to work abroad and come back to their hometown, but they are not allowed to leave since they are in debt to the company and under the threat of the recruitment firm. Generally, the recruitment companies give some money and other stuffs in return as the loan money from the company which they will pay back when their family’s members go to work abroad.

If we look more in some recruitment companies, there seems to be wrongdoings including underage workers, which is against the labor law. While they are working abroad, they are exploited and mistreated from the employers.

According to Licadho report in September, 2010, under 18-year-old workers had been rescued from Malaysia. The report says that the licensed recruitment agency facilitated falsified documents, though they are underage. They were promised with highly paid job, but they were cheated.

From year to year, the number of sent workers has been increased. According to Ministry of Labor, some 72000 workers are sent legally by all local recruitment companies to various countries including Malaysia accounting for 40000 people, Thailand for 20000 workers, South Korea for 10000 and Japan for 200 people.

Malaysia has become an increasingly popular destination for Cambodian migrant workers, with the number of Cambodians seeking work there increasing by about four times over the past two years. However, the sharp increase has coincided with mounting concern over the welfare of Cambodian workers, fuelled by a recent spate of complaints from people who claim to have suffered abuse from Malaysian employers.

Meas Saneth, program director for the NGO Coordination of Action Research on AIDS and Mobility as quoted in Phnom Penh Post that, “ the workers had likely been sent to Malaysia by illegal recruitment agencies that had “cheated” them.”

Labour Ministry deliberates ways of regulating the rapidly expanding labor recruitment industry, which has seen multiple new firms pop up in the last year in a bid to supply other countries with Cambodian labour. Cambodia is cooperating with other countries including Hong Kong, Singapore, Canada, Kuwait and other nations to send workforce there.

Meanwhile, in March, 2011, Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training in cooperation with workers’ right protection activists and justice police had a meeting to find the means of protecting workers and prevent from the human trafficking and labor exploitation.

I agree that sending Cambodia’s labor force to work abroad is a good solution to the poverty alleviation in the Kingdom, but the government has to guarantee that they are in safety and security without being cheated, mistreated and exploited from the companies and employers.

I knowledge that the illegal migration to work in Malaysia and Thailand and other countries else is difficult to control and help, but regarding the legal migration to work through the recruitment firms, the government should take tough actions with the companies. The ministry, police and other relevant institutions should investigate other companies that violate people’s rights and should punish them.

The government should have a work team to check carefully with the recruitment companies, making sure they are following the law and policy of the ministry. Everything should be ensured for the workers’ interest and security. “Sending workers for employment overseas is not like sending products abroad for selling.”