I. Tracking recruitment costs

The migration of low-wage workers leads to a proliferation of actors who “facilitate” their migration for a profit. These actors include, but are not limited to: village-level “sub-agents,” local registered agents, registered large agencies,  corrupt officials in countries of origin, manpower agencies in receiving countries, HR and skills-testing officials with employing companies, and the employing companies themselves. Our research has contributed to shedding light on this supply chain of labor from sending to receiving countries but to date, no one has produced a convincing and methodologically sound analysis of the breakdown of payments that are being made along this chain. Tracking these costs would give us a better understanding of the business mechanisms and incentives that drive the recruitment business.  We know that it is difficult to physically follow all monetary flows, and many payments – particularly those perceived by transacting individuals as corrupt – are not recorded anywhere. However, we think it is possible to deduce certain variables by subtracting component fees from the total amounts migrants claim to have paid on average. For example, if we know the true “cost” (fees, transportation, etc.) of migration and the average amount in “kickback” bribes being paid by recruiters to employer representatives, we may be able to subtract these components from the total average fee paid by migrants to deduce recruiters’ profit margins. Tracking the payment stream would be highly relevant for interested businesses, particularly large multi-nationals with robust ethics policies that are at least publically committed to business and human rights principles and a policy of no payment of recruitment fees.

Possible research questions:

  1. Who, precisely, financially benefits -- and by how much -- from the recruitment of low-wage migrant workers in South Asia?
  2. What is the true “cost” of migration? How much does it actually take to get a worker from rural India or Bangladesh to the Gulf?