UN Migration Agency Will Use Blockchain Technology in Effort to Stamp out Illegal Fees Charged to Migrant Workers in Hong Kong

While in many people’s minds, blockchain technology is inescapably linked to bitcoin and the rise of cryptocurrency and the disruption of traditional financial services, the technology has also long been hailed as a facilitator and enabler of social change and improvement in the quality of life for many of the world’s most disadvantaged people. With increasing investment across the world into the development of blockchain technology, many sectors are now involve in its adoption and application to some degree. With its potential benefits, including the immutability and security of stored information increased transparency, visibility and security of data, even international non-governmental organisations, including the United Nations, are exploring how blockchain technology might support some of their varied initiatives.According to a December press release, Diginex, a blockchain financial services and technology company, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) – the UN Migration Agency – will launch a blockchain-based tool developed to prevent the exploitation of migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong SAR, China.The tool is initially being designed for use by representatives from the approximately 1,500 Hong Kong-based migrant domestic worker recruitment agencies as well as select associated agencies in worker-sending countries. It is called IRIS-SAFER, which is an acronym for the International Recruitment Integrity System (IRIS)- Self-Assessment for Ethical Recruitment (SAFER).Agencies will be invited to use the tool to assess their current level of adherence to global ethical recruitment principles as set forth by the IRIS Standard, and they will use IRIS-SAFER as a part of their participation in broader training on ethical recruitment.Diginex asserts that, “The use of blockchain technology – essentially a set of immutable, secure, data records – will strengthen data management and enforce data integrity, which allows for a higher level of transparency and visibility.”According to a survey in the area, almost 10% of all workers in the city are migrant domestic workers and almost all of these are women. More than half of these domestic migrant workers are being charged illegal fees by recruitment agencies.

Mr. Mark Blick, Head of Government Solutions at Diginex, said: “We are delighted to partner with the IOM on this impactful project. Using the UN’s IRIS standards as the benchmark for reputable agencies, we are confident that the tool can help to strike out these unethical practises. In Hong Kong, foreign domestic workers are some of the most economically vulnerable people in our society and pay approximately HK$700,000,000 each year in placement/recruitment fees. Being headquartered in Hong Kong, we believe it is vital to support the communities in which we operate, so this partnership and project is close to our hearts.”

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