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New report stresses need for stronger monitoring of labour market agencies to prevent trafficking of workers

Press release   •   Apr 27, 2016 14:00 BST

(Dublin, Ireland): With growing numbers of workers moving freely across the European Union, the role of labour market intermediaries (LMIs) in matching workers with companies’ needs has become increasingly important in helping the single market to function effectively. However, some LMIs also play a part in the deceitful recruitment or transfer of workers who may subsequently be exposed to exploitation. New research, focusing on strategies to prevent such practices and limit the potential for trafficking, highlights the need for strengthened monitoring of LMIs to achieve better prevention, enforcement, sanctioning and prosecution.

Eurofound’s latest report ‘Regulation of labour market intermediaries and the role of social partners in preventing trafficking of labour’, which is presented to members of the European Parliament in Brussels today, also underlines the importance of social partner activities and cross-border cooperation in developing coherent and targeted interventions.

Mobility and migration in the EU contribute to well-functioning labour markets, resulting in greater productivity, competitiveness and growth. The European Union has strong legislation in place, including to regulate labour market intermediaries, which enables businesses to engage in fair competition and protects workers from being exploited. Labour market intermediaries such as temporary work agencies help to facilitate the mobility of workers through matching workers with companies’ needs. According to the Structural Business Statistics more than 33,000 temporary work agencies operate in Europe aiding job matching and mobility within and across borders.

While most LMIs abide by the rules, some use their role to recruit or transfer workers unlawfully. They deceive workers about the nature of the job, the employer, the location or other conditions related to the work, and these workers end up working under exploitative conditions. Eurostat’s latest figures show that 19% of all identified and presumed victims were trafficked for the purpose of labour exploitation.

In 2011 the EU adopted the Anti-Trafficking Directive. The directive emphasises that trafficking is a serious crime and a gross violation of fundamental rights. The EU Strategy towards the Eradication of Trafficking in Human Beings 2012–2016 complements the legal rules with targeted actions - and recruitment by LMIs is indeed one area of concern.

‘Although trafficking for labour exploitation has been criminalised at EU level, the recent numbers, according to Eurostat, of prosecuted traffickers are stagnant,’ says Andrea Fromm, Research Officer and co-author of the report. ‘Our report urges stronger implementation of regulation and joint action by social partners to crack down on trafficking for labour exploitation.’

Download the report Regulation of labour market intermediaries and the role of social partners in preventing trafficking of labour:

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