Protecting Vietnamese migrant workers from forced labour

Many Vietnamese migrant workers incur high recruitment fees and related costs when migrating for work. This puts them at risk of debt bondage, which is a form of forced labour.

Find out more about debt bondage 


A total of 80,000 Vietnamese leave the country for work overseas each year[1], with another 450,000 residing abroad as temporary workers[2]. The average recruitment fees and costs for a Vietnamese migrant worker were around USD 6,500, against average monthly wages of USD 800 for work overseas. On average a Vietnamese migrant had to work 8.7 months to recover the cost of labour migration, even where legal ceiling amounts were respected.[3]

To change this situation for the better, we mobilized the Vietnamese business community to present key decision-makers with credible solutions to forced labour, underpinned by a set of ILO GBNFL policy briefs.  As a result, the government of Vietnam revised a key law regulating the recruitment of Vietnamese migrant workers. The updated and improved law came into force on 1 January 2022.


Key improvements include:

  • Private recruitment agents are now prohibited from deceiving ‘workers or to recruit workers for the purpose of human trafficking, exploitation, forced labor or taking advantage of the placement of workers abroad to conduct illegal acts’
  • Migrant workers are no longer made to pay a category of recruitment fees and costs entitled ‘brokerage fees’
  • The Vietnamese National Assembly Standing Committee has made a recommendation to ‘minimize service charges to workers and eventually move to the model of zero fees for workers as recommended by the International Labour Organization (ILO)’
  • Migrant workers are now able to unilaterally annul employment contracts where there is threat, sexual harassment, maltreatment or forced labour
  • Legal aid is available in cases of abuse, violence or discrimination whilst working abroad
  • Workers can appeal to the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA) if their pre-departure deposit to their recruitment agent is not returned
  • Pre-departure training for migrant workers now covers forced labour and human trafficking.


[1] ILO 2020. Labour Migration in Viet Nam. Web page consulted on 28.01.2020.
[2] IOM country web page consulted on 28.01.2020.
[3] ILO GBNFL 2020. Business recommendations for forced labour eradication in Viet Nam.