In collaboration with the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad), GFEMS is working with Seefar to launch and pilot The Ethical Recruitment Agency (TERA) India. From its headquarters in Lucknow, TERA India will provide safe work opportunities abroad to vulnerable communities in Uttar Pradesh (UP).

Seefar, a social enterprise with a vision for a world where vulnerable people have more opportunities to advance themselves, will contribute its valuable experience as implementer with comprehensive contextual knowledge of forced labor, modern slavery, and ethical recruitment to the delivery of this project. Seefar launched TERA in 2018 with the mission of helping workers benefit from migration while staying safe from exploitation.

The Fund’s scoping research indicated that UP and Bihar are two of India’s top migrant sending states to Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. Community vulnerabilities and an unregulated recruitment system permits exploitation throughout the recruitment process. Vulnerable migrants are charged prohibitively high fees by recruitment agents, leading them to take out loans which may be nearly impossible to pay back and sinking them into a cycle of debt bondage. Beyond financial exploitation, recruiters and their sub-agents often provide false or insufficient information to migrants regarding working and living conditions, salary, and the nature of work to be carried out.

In this project, TERA India will operationalize systems for monitoring worker welfare, test the viability of an ethical recruitment agency in UP, and provide targeted support to low-skilled workers across multiple industries, including domestic workers, cleaners, and construction workers. In addition, TERA India will engage with the broader community of people vulnerable to modern slavery, including aspiring migrants who are unskilled, poor, and new to the migration process, to enhance understanding of and access to ethical recruitment opportunities.

This project will provide ethical recruitment service to vulnerable people by supporting debt-free recruitment and adherence to best-practice worker welfare standards. To achieve these goals, Seefar will help migrant workers secure safe employment and work abroad with no recruitment debt, fees, deception, or abusive living and working conditions. Testing TERA’s success will generate learnings on the viability and sustainability of an ethical recruitment agency, with the ultimate goal of shifting the market toward ethical recruitment. A key component of Seefar’s work will be filling the evidence gap to support TERA’s scalability and replication. The project will generate key research products establishing the business case for ethical recruitment, document beneficiary case studies and collect welfare data, and share lessons learned on establishing an ethical recruitment agency.

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