Opinion – Agency work

The Legislative Assembly is currently discussing new legislation concerning the activity of employment agencies. This sector usually operates very much away from the public view,  unless you need to use their services – as it is the case, namely, of non-resident workers (NRW).

Like so many activities, it has its uses and abuses. Apart from the occasional news concerning possible malpractices, very little comes to the public forum about their conduct, range of services, or revenue.

For an activity with such an impact, the sector is somewhat opaque. And yet its performance must be significant, both economically and socially. First, for its nature – matching labor supply and demand – and then or the numbers of people involved – check the turnover of NRW’s implicit in statistics.

The fact that the sector is under the gaze of our legislators is therefore welcome. The justification note that the government sent to the assembly with the proposed law notes their importance in the process of hiring NRWs. Unfortunately, it is less straightforward when it attempts to justify why it needs changing.

It states that the current legal framework is “no longer able to fulfill the needs for social development.” That begs two questions. First, which needs are those? Second, how do the existing regulations fail them?

 A note that states a need without clarifying its rationale and underpinnings is limited as justification. Some people may point out that this is a common feature in many law proposals. It is true, but recurrence does not make that fact more acceptable or welcome.

Then, the justification note adds, the law proposal is an “answer to user needs”. Again, that statement, made without further elaboration, begs other questions. “Users” is a slightly odd word to use in this context. Who are the users the law refers to, and, more specifically, what are their specific interests the new law addresses?

Implicitly, at least, that should refer to the employers and workers of the sector, as the document mentions their “opinions and requests” were “heard.” As before, some details about what those “opinions and requests” were would be adequate.

The fact that the primary “users” – that is, the NRWs – were not involved in the process strikes as somewhat odd. Their opinions and, in particular, their experiences, good or bad, should be relevant to assess the possible shortcomings of the current regulations and to ensure the next ones are an actual improvement.