AsiaLife, October 2017
I heard about a recruitment company in a nearby country that didn’t fully comply with the multitude of rules and regulations laid down by its ministry of labour. We’ve all complained about many layers of rules and regulations in our sectors – largely due to the lack of trust and ability to enforce contracts – and this is an example.
The ministry likes forms. Lots of forms. And it supplies a book of forms that's about 1.5 cm thick, as well as helpful one-day seminars on how to complete them. (It doesn’t sound like a particularly interesting day.) If a candidate is interviewed by the agency, there's a form. When a candidate is sent to a client, there’s a form. If the candidate is interviewed by the client, if the candidate accepts an offer and starts work, you get the idea. The candidate also has to fill in a form which shows how much they paid the recruitment company (always zero in our case), and the client has to complete one too. I could go on.
Recruitment consultants have to carry a licence showing that they are authorised by the ministry to recruit. In theory a candidate could ask to see it – I have never heard of anyone asking; they don’t even know it exists. Getting that licence requires a trip to the police station for fingerprints and a health check – costing time and money. For each agency, the ministry issues a recruitment licence that must be on display in its office: fair enough on that one.
Lots of forms, lots of pieces of paper – nothing online. Many civil servants employed (at low wages, I guess) to check the forms. The agency in question missed some forms – new staff they didn’t immediately register with the ministry. They planned to do it after probation, but the rules say the first few days. You decide if that’s reasonable.
The punishment was a fine and being forced to shut down the business for two weeks. No-one in the office, no candidates or clients contacted, no invoices out, no bills paid. And the company was scared to try – if they had been caught operating, who knows what the ministry would have doled out as suitable punishment. Let’s be clear: no actual crimes in law were committed, and no candidate suffered (or even complained). It was for not completing paper forms.
How does that square with moving into the digital age when so much recruitment work is already done by robotics? It will only increase with AI and other technologies we don’t know yet will exist. Perhaps we will see the day where recruitment companies base themselves in a low-touch regulatory environment and manage their activities from there, avoiding all those dreadful paper forms.
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