Illustration of the Hong Kong flag
Illustration of the Hong Kong flag. Freepik

The United Nations International Organization for Migration (IOM) has partnered up with blockchain financial services firm Diginex on a blockchain tool that aims to prevent the exploitation of migrant workers in Hong Kong.

Announced by Diginex on Monday, the tool was designed to initially be used by around 1,500 recruitment agencies and some associated agencies in worker-sending countries.

Called the International Recruitment Integrity System – Self-Assessment for Ethical Recruitment (IRIS-SAFER), the blockchain solution was created to add greater transparency to the recruitment process in Hong Kong.


The U.N. hopes that the new tool will serve as a practical solution for businesses to adopt ethical recruitment practices, and a set of rules to promote and support recruitment practices around the world.

The project uses blockchain to ensure that recorded data is safe and immutable, which will improve data integrity, transparency and visibility in the sector.

Giuseppe Crocetti, Chief of Mission, IOM China, stated:

“Through use of IRIS-SAFER, agencies will first learn what are global ethical recruitment standards, then be able to demonstrate their progress and, ultimately, prove their commitment. With this project, we are drawing from IOM’s global work, through the IRIS initiative, and tailoring it to the specific experience of recruiting migrant domestic workers to Hong Kong.”

According to the press release, there are more than 390,000 domestic migrant workers in the Hong Kong area, which is around 10 percent of the population.

The report further states that 98% of migrant workers are women, of which 56 percent were reportedly charged illegal fees by recruitment agencies. Mark Blick, Diginex’s head of government solutions, said:

“Using the U.N.’s IRIS standards as the benchmark for reputable agencies, we are confident that the tool can help to strike out these unethical practices. In Hong Kong, foreign domestic workers are some of the most economically vulnerable people in our society and pay approximately HK$700,000,000 [approximately $89.9 million] each year in placement/recruitment fees.”

Following the Hong Kong rollout, IOM plans to introduce the system to other jurisdictions, allowing U.N. officials to accurately monitor progress from participating recruitment agencies around the world.

This is not the first time the U.N. has dabbled in blockchain technology. Earlier this year, UNICEF became the first U.N. organization to receive, hold, and distribute donations in cryptocurrency, namely Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH).

Last September, the U.N. Capital Development Fund and the U.N. Development Program began work on a blockchain-based identity system with the government of Sierra Leone.

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