More regular than irregular migrant workers reported sending remittances back to their families at home. Among the regular migrant workers, average amounts remitted were more than twice what they were able to earn back home. “Although other factors, such as migration costs, need further consideration, the wage differential clearly drives migration in this corridor” adds Boll.
Challenges are faced by both regular and irregular migrant workers
Regular and irregular migrant workers reported various challenges as part of their migrant work in Thailand. For example, all but two regular migrant workers had their passports confiscated by their employers, and a third of them indicated that they had no access to their documents even if wanted. Further, for many employment-related variables, over 10 percent of both regular and irregular migrant workers surveyed described negative or very negative conditions.
89 percent of regular migrant workers reported that they signed a contract with their recruitment agency, but two-thirds of them did not fully or at all understand that agreement. Further, only 40 percent of those with contracts received a copy, and nobody signed an employment agreement with their employer upon arrival. “It is unclear how, under current regulations, working conditions in the destination country as agreed in the origin country would be enforceable” notes Olsen.
Regular migrants waited an average of 122 days from the agreement with a recruitment agency before travelling to Thailand, with 20 percent waiting six months or longer. “This was significantly longer than the ‘official’ estimates of 55 days and is likely to undermine the use of regular channels,” Boll remarked.
The report recommends strengthening monitoring of working conditions, such as by improving complaints mechanisms and labour inspections. “Our respondents indicated that opportunities to raise concerns were insufficient. For working conditions to improve, migrant workers must have confidential and safe avenues for reporting incidences of abuse or exploitation without fear of consequences,” Olsen concluded.
The study was supported by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency through the UN-ACT project.
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