A ‘north star’ in governing global labour migration? The ILO and the Fair Recruitment Initiative

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In 2014, the International Labour Organization (ILO) launched the Fair Recruitment Initiative (FRI) with the aim of tackling labour exploitation widely associated with the recruitment of low-wage migrant workers. To date, scholars have largely neglected the ILO’s role in developing ‘fair recruitment’ as a mechanism of global social policy. In response, this article analyses the ILO’s harnessing of fair recruitment to the global governance of migration. Through engaging in significant knowledge production activities, the ILO has promoted ‘fair recruitment’ as a new norm, generating consensus from these partners, despite its absence from international legal standards. In utilising multiple and varied tools, the article argues that the FRI is an example of the ‘coordinated governance’ which the ILO has had to pragmatically resort to in externally and internally challenging environments, and regardless of whether states have ratified its main convention on recruitment, C181. However, as of 2022, the concept of fair recruitment remains a muted challenge to the hegemonic precarity and inequalities associated with international labour migration in the 21st century.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)303-322
Number of pages20
JournalGlobal Social Policy
Issue number2
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 Apr 2022

Bibliographical note

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/) which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/open-access-at-sage).


  • Employment agencies
  • Fair Recruitment Initiative
  • ILO
  • global governance
  • knowledge production
  • labour migration
  • recruitment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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