Welcome to the Slavery Research Bulletin, the Freedom Fund’s monthly brief designed to bring you new & compelling research from the global anti-slavery movement.
GoodWeave International reports on the effects of covid-19 on forced labour in the apparel and textile sector in South Asia. The study interviewed 422 workers in India and Nepal to understand the impact of the pandemic on their vulnerabilities. Since the pandemic, 60 percent of respondents have lost their jobs or seen a decrease in wages, and 64 percent of workers in Nepal also reported owing money to employers or contractors with an average debt of $500, equivalent to three months labour.
The International Labour Organization publishes new guidelines for the economic reintegration of victims of forced labour. Aimed at governments, workers’ groups, NGOs and development practitioners, the guidelines address reintegration through policy interventions, skills development and psychosocial support. Building on international protocols and conventions, the guidelines provide a summary of the numerous forms and causes of forced labour, as well as a checklist for providing holistic support to survivors.
The Worker Rights Consortium examines rising food insecurity among garment workers across nine countries due to covid-19. Interviewing 396 workers who produce for over 100 apparel brands and retailers, the study highlights the link between reduced wages, job suspensions and hunger. Overall, 88 percent of workers reported reduced household food consumption due to wage reduction, with 67 percent reporting having skipped meals and 20 percent experiencing daily hunger since the beginning of the pandemic.
An article published in Development and Change uses the example of debt bondage in Cambodian brick kilns to highlight the need for a structural approach to combatting labour exploitation. Based on over 370 interviews with brick kiln owners, workers and local officials, rural workers in Phnom Penh were found to enter into conditions of debt bondage knowingly in order to repay loans from microfinance institutions in their source villages. Some respondents had placed homes as collateral for the loans, with the threat of homes being seized if payments were missed. As a result, researchers found waged work in brick kilns as the central strategy for repaying microfinance debt, despite exploitative conditions.
Equidem reports on the lack of protection for migrant workers in covid-19 responses of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, drawing on 206 interviews with low-wage migrant workers who have worked in these three countries. Compiling case studies, the report highlights the gap between government policies and implementation of covid-19 responses. Although all three governments have promised protection for migrant workers, which included free health care and continued payment of wages to sick workers, there were significant non-compliance among businesses – including by some of the largest state-owned enterprises in the region.
The Freedom Fund recently launched Freedom Rising, a leadership and movement-building program focusing on women and survivors in communities that are most effected by modern slavery. Watch the launch event here.
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