New research: How Seefar’s ethical recruitment services are protecting migrants

Migrant workers are among the most vulnerable people in the world. In sending countries like Ethiopia, Indonesia, Nigeria, and India, people seeking work abroad frequently experience exploitative practices. Their vulnerability is driven by their dependence on a network of unlicensed and unscrupulous recruiters, sub-agents, and local brokers. Combined with asymmetrical migration information, low- and semi-skilled migrant workers are highly vulnerable to situations of forced labour that include document retention, illegal recruitment fees, contract substitution, deceptive recruitment, and debt bondage.

Ethical recruitment – an approach that ensures legal compliance, eliminates recruitment fees, and adheres to international standards of worker welfare – has the potential to eliminate forced labour from recruitment and empower workers to benefit more from their employment. However, research on the influence of ethical recruitment on migration decision-making and on the vulnerability to forced labour remains limited. Leveraging novel data from Seefar’s ethical labour recruiter TERA, Seefar’s new research study “The Pre-migration Impacts of Ethical Recruitment. Measuring the role of ethical recruitment on migration knowledge, decision-making, and vulnerability to forced labor”, finds that ethical recruitment is an effective intervention to safeguard migrant workers and improve migrant worker outcomes, particularly during the pre-migration phase.

“A lot of audiences assume that ethical recruitment is just ‘no fees’. But Seefar’s research demonstrates that ethical recruitment agencies can also play a significant role in pre-migration. With the right approach, ethical recruitment agencies can be more cost-effective than mass awareness campaigns, too, because of their financial sustainability and trust with prospective migrants.” Jeff Bond (the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery)

Seefar’s research suggests that ethical recruitment agencies play a powerful role in raising awareness of migration risks and illegal recruitment practices during the pre-departure phase. Based on this evidence, government officials and donors can begin to view ethical recruitment agencies as “two in one” interventions: marketing infrastructure to disseminate strategic migration messages, and livelihoods programming that empowers and safeguards the most vulnerable people. Seefar’s research also points to the continued need to mobilise public and private resources to combat forced labour during recruitment.  

Other key findings from the report include:

  • Respondents who received information on ethical recruitment by The Ethical Recruitment Agency (TERA) were comprehensively more knowledgeable about the migration process, requirements, and risks than a separate group who did not interact with TERA.
  • Respondents who listed TERA as a trusted migration information source are more confident to make safer and better informed decisions than those who get their information elsewhere. 
  • There is widespread demand for ethical recruitment opportunities among workers, but there are few compliant providers. Ethical recruiters could disrupt the role of traditional recruitment actors by capitalizing on broad worker demand for zero-fee recruitment, better-paying jobs, and transparent information aligning skills with opportunities.

Access the full report here: “The Pre-migration Impacts of Ethical Recruitment. Measuring the role of ethical recruitment on migration knowledge, decision-making, and vulnerability to forced labor”.

Seefar welcomes comments and feedback on its research. To provide feedback, please email us at

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