Mexico Moves Towards Ethical Recruitment of Migrant Workers

Labour Migration

Mexico City – Mexico’s Ministry of Labour and Social Security (STPS) has expressed its interest and commitment to align its operations with the International Organization for Migration’s International Recruitment Integrity System (IRIS), to improve the recruitment system in Mexico.  

This follows officials from the Ministry meeting with IOM this week (16/05) to discuss ethical recruitment in the country. 

IRIS is a social compliance system designed to promote international ethical recruitment for companies, governments and workers. The goal of IRIS is to transform the international recruitment industry so that it is fair to workers, recruiters and employers. Through IRIS, the STPS and its agencies, as well as recruitment agencies in Mexico, may adhere to the “employer pays” principle to encourage an ethical process throughout the recruitment, for the benefit of migrant workers and all actors involved. 

Unethical recruitment is a global phenomenon found in all economic and occupational sectors, most commonly linked with the recruitment of lower skilled workers where the prevailing business model is based on a “worker pays” modality. 

The exploitation of migrant workers, in many cases, begins in the recruitment phase and before the migration cycle, by job recruiters or unscrupulous employment agencies that charge excessive fees, provide false and misleading information about the job offer and exploit potential migrant workers through false promises and coercion. This exploitation is often discovered during labour inspection or workplace assessments in the countries of employment, when the damage has already been done and requires remediation by employers or governments. 

In Mexico, individuals in search of work use the services of irregular and abusive labour intermediaries who charge large amounts of money to procure them a job. Due to all these unfair practices, workers frequently incur in debts to pay the agent. Irregular intermediaries are in contact with unethical employers, who do not provide workers with dignified working conditions. Thus, workers can potentially become victims of abuse, exploitation and trafficking. 

As stated by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, it is necessary to disseminate, strengthen and improve the legal and organizational requirements of the recruitment agencies to make their operations more transparent. This poses challenges both for those businesses that are willing to comply with the requirements, and for the institutions that decide to support them. 

"There is a latent need to establish a process like IRIS and start it as soon as possible in Mexico to improve the recruitment processes in the country, promote them among the employment agencies as well as to provide greater protection to Mexican migrant workers,” said the Lic. Donaciano Domínguez Espinosa, Sub-Coordinator General of the National Employment Service. 

"IOM is very interested in being able to support the Government of Mexico in this effort, based on the actions that the STPS-SNE has already taken to improve and strengthen good international hiring and employment practices," said Christopher Gascón, Chief of IOM Mission in Mexico 

The consequences of exploitation and abuse in the international recruitment system leave many victims in the region. For this reason, different countries of Central America and the Caribbean are also interested in the development of a project such as IRIS, which promotes ethical recruitment where all the actors involved benefit from it. 

For more information, please contact Margarita Maura at IOM Mexico, Email:, or Michela Macchiavello at the IOM Regional Office in San Jose, Email:   

  • Pre-departure orientation session for migrant workers. Photo: IOM