The staffing industry in much of the world is a little like the Wild West – unregulated and dangerous. There are many countries where recruitment bodies are still calling for a basic regulatory framework to be provided. This doesn’t mean to say that you can’t hire temporary agency workers in these markets — staffing vendors can happily exist in a regulatory vacuum.
CW managers who are looking to take their programs beyond the U.S. and other established markets can get a sense of a country’s climate by noting whether it has ratified “ILO Convention 181.”
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) is a United Nations agency that brings together representatives of governments, employers and workers to shape policies and programs on employment-related matters. Adopted in 1997, ILO Convention 181 recognizes the “role private employment agencies may play in a well-functioning labor market.” At the time, this represented a dramatic shift in the ILO position regarding the temporary staffing industry: from one of prohibition (Convention 96) to legal recognition and support.
The purpose of the Convention is to allow the operation of private employment agencies as well as to protect the workers using their services. The Convention established conditions governing the operation of private employment agencies through licensing and certification, defines rules and regulations which provide for penalties for those involved in fraudulent practices, endorses the creation of complaints and investigation machinery and allocates the responsibilities of private employment agencies and employers.
While not all countries have felt it necessary to ratify this Convention in order to develop their temporary staffing markets — many countries already have well-established staffing markets and a solid body of legislation already in place, such as the U.S. and U.K. — it has proven to be an important first step in many countries, especially among emerging economies. To date, more than 20 countries have ratified the Convention 181 (and the accompanying ‘Recommendation 188’), the latest being Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2010 (see list below).
The ILO continues to engage with social partners in trying to develop a better understanding of temporary agency staffing. In October 2011, it ran a Global Forum that brought together more than 50 recruitment industry representatives from around the world as well as trade unions and Government officials. However, the lack of consensus at the meeting shows just how fragile Convention 181 really is. Commenting on the meeting, Denis Pennel, managing director of the International Confederation of Private Employment Agencies (Ciett), said: “A key sticking point for the unions is the perception that agency work is being used to systematically replace permanent employment and that there is a mass ‘casualisation’ of the workforce. This is something the Ciett delegation was able to challenge through robust data — for example the fact that in the U.S., the [temporary] penetration rate has actually dropped from two percent of the workforce to 1.7 percent.”
While the lack of regulation doesn’t necessarily preclude the use of temporary agency workers, you may want to re-evaluate your appetite for risk if you want to do business in an unregulated market. Also, consider whether the lack of employment rights for temporary workers in these markets is palatable and in keeping with the reputation of your company.
Otherwise, look to those that have taken the proper steps to address CW usage, either with an established body of legislation or through the more recent adoption of the ILO Convention.
|Countries that Have Ratified ILO Convention 181|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||2010|
The full text of ILO Convention 181 can be read here.