A man in a factory is making something out of wood. He is wearing a blue t-shirt and orange noise-cancelling headphones.

Protecting migrant workers

We are seeing more and more individuals around the world seeking work opportunities abroad – out of choice or necessity. Migrants living and working outside their country of origin are especially vulnerable to human rights abuses and exploitation. We’ve mapped the biggest migrant corridors within our supply chain, and created a guideline for responsible recruitment. Through these efforts, we hope to build better understanding and strengthen the ability of our suppliers to manage recruitments responsibly, benefitting both their businesses and, more importantly, the individuals.

The importance of responsible recruitment

Known issues when recruiting migrant workers include high recruitment fees paid for by the workers themselves, and having their passports withheld. This leads to the risk of forced or bonded labour. On the other side of the coin, employers with high numbers of migrant workers might struggle with skills mismatches and high employee turnover.

A factory worker, Zhong Bo, is operating the printing machine at Dongguan MYS. He is wearing a light blue mask and shirt.
Zhong Bo operates the printing machine at Dongguan MYS.

Supporting suppliers in responsible recruitment of migrant workers

In the last couple of years, we have done several projects with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to map labour supply chains leading to IKEA suppliers in South East Asia. This included assessments at the suppliers and at recruitment agencies in both the countries of origin of migrant workers and countries of destination.

It provided a clearer picture of migrant workers’ journeys from their homes to IKEA suppliers in selected corridors, and highlighted the risks associated with cross-border recruitment. In many countries, legislation and established practice are based on workers paying recruitment fees and costs.

Workers can accumulate high levels of debt before they even start working at their employer in the country of destination. Based on learnings from this project, the IKEA Guidelines on Responsible Recruitment have been developed. They aim to build the understanding and ability of suppliers to responsibly manage the recruitment of migrant workers. The focus is on cross-border migration through recruitment agencies or intermediaries, but the general principles apply to all types of recruitment of all workers.

Eliminating worker-paid recruitment fees

To extend the impact beyond our own suppliers, we are one of the founding members of the Leadership Group for Responsible Recruitment which is convened by the Institute for Human Rights and Business.

It is a group of like-minded companies and organisations set up with the aim of eradicating worker-paid recruitment fees over the coming decade, based on the “Employer Pays” principle. Because we strongly believe that migrant workers should be treated with respect, we have committed to advocate for this goal more widely, with governments, businesses and other relevant organisations, and continue to look for ways to assist and support migrant workers.