The Freedom Fund is implementing a hotspot in Indonesia aimed at significantly reducing slavery in the seafood industry.
Hotspot start date: January 2022
Since 2015, the Freedom Fund has been partnering with Humanity United on a program to address forced labour in seafood supply chains in Thailand. In 2020, the focus of this partnership broadened to encompass multiple countries in the Asia-Pacific region through grantmaking supporting national, regional and global programs. Our collaboration continues to enable the work of local grassroots partners through the Freedom Fund’s hotspot model, whilst simultaneously engaging across the supply chain, policy and governance spheres with retailers, suppliers, multi-stakeholder initiatives, international NGOs and governments to effect change. See Humanity United’s website for more information about our partnership. Under the seafood supply chain program, Freedom Fund hotspots operate in Thailand and Indonesia.
Indonesia is the world’s second largest producer of seafood and a global leader in valuable export markets, with significant volumes of tuna, shrimp and other products destined for North America and Europe. At the same time, Indonesia is a major labour-sending country for migrant workers employed in global fishing fleets.
In recent years, international attention has focused on trafficking and forced labour affecting Indonesians migrating to work on distant water fishing vessels operated by Taiwan, South Korea and China in particular. There are well-documented incidences of deceptive recruitment, wage withholding, debt bondage, excessive working hours, retention of identity documents and physical and sexual violence, among other forced labour practices, affecting Indonesian migrant fishers. The vulnerability of overseas migrants to exploitation is exacerbated by the involvement of various actors located across multiple jurisdictions in the recruitment of fishers, as well as the isolation faced by foreign workers engaged in long-haul fishing operations in remote areas.
Poor labour practices in Indonesia’s domestic fishing sector, which employs over 1.5 million people, have been acknowledged for many years. Widespread child labour was found on fishing platforms in the early 2000s, for example. Many industrial fishing vessels recruit internal migrants from different parts of western Indonesia yet fish two thousand kilometers away in the country’s eastern waters. As with overseas migrants, the isolation imposed by these fishing operations alongside the informality in recruitment processes generates significant forced labour risks for workers. Deceptive recruitment, debt bondage and wage withholding are among the forced labour practices impacting workers in the domestic catching sector.
Indonesia’s profitable aquaculture and seafood processing sectors employ over 4 million, with predominantly female labourers working in the factories. Here, reports of excessive hours and wage withholding are widespread: especially sub-minimum wage, non-payment of overtime and illegal deductions. Gender-based discrimination and arbitrary or punitive labour discipline, such as supervisors denying workers toilet breaks, are commonplace. Many of the women working precarious seafood processing jobs cohabit with men employed in fishing, which can increase overall vulnerability to forced labour practices in both sectors.
In Indonesia, the Freedom Fund hotspot is aiming to achieve the following outcomes:
1. Seafood workers have better access to sustainable and effective civil society and worker organisations, providing a pathway for collective action and assistance.
2. More seafood workers are empowered to organise, claim rights and demand decent working conditions.
3. Government and private sector are more responsive to the rights of migrant workers, particularly in relation to improving safer migration and freedom of association and implement laws/policies/systems to reflect this.
3. More of the seafood workers most vulnerable to or affected by forced labour are able to access legal and social services, enabling them to seek redress.