A new Verité study, covered in today’s New York Times among many other publications, shows concrete evidence of widespread forced labor among migrant workers in Malaysian electronics. The press release:
Amherst, MA – Verité, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring that people around the world work under safe, fair, and legal conditions, today announced the findings of a first-of-its-kind study on forced labor in the Malaysian electronics industry. The study found that thirty-two percent of foreign migrant workers surveyed, nearly one in three, were working in conditions of forced labor.
Verité interviewed more than 500 male and female workers across all major producing regions, electronics products, and foreign worker nationalities. Malaysian nationals were also surveyed. The results of these extensive interviews indicate that forced labor is present in the Malaysian electronics industry in more than just isolated cases, and that the problem is indeed widespread. This could mean that many electronics products reaching American consumers are produced using forced labor.
“Verité’s study is the most comprehensive look at forced labor in the Malaysian electronics sector to date,” Dan Viederman, CEO of Verité remarked. “Our report provides a clear sense of the scope of the problem in the industry, as well as the root causes underlying this egregious form of abuse, which center on unlawful and unethical recruitment practices.”
The report identified the top factors responsible for making this sector prone to human rights abuses. According to Verité’s study, the widespread reliance on third-party agents for the recruitment, management and employment of foreign workers limits their protections and blurs accountability for labor conditions. Other top factors identified by the research as contributors to forced labor include: unlawful passport retention, high and hidden recruitment fees resulting in widespread indebtedness that can trap workers in their jobs, deceptive recruitment practices, highly constrained freedom of movement, poor living conditions, fines and other penalties that prevent workers from being able to resign, and inadequate legal protections.
“The problem of forced labor within the Malaysian electronics industry is complex, but many of the solutions are not,” said Viederman. “Governments, companies and civil society alike need to increase transparency into the recruitment process for workers. Third-party employment agents should be regulated by governments and held accountable for their practices by their clients. Workers must not be charged recruitment fees, and must be allowed to hold their own passports. These actions alone will go a long way to ensure that workers are treated fairly within the industry, and that companies avoid the risk of forced labor in their supply chains and business operations.”
Click here to read the full report.