Child labour

Combating the Worst Forms of Child Labour in Shrimp and Seafood Processing Areas in Thailand

The project aims to create an industry that is free of child labour and offers decent working conditions and opportunities.

1. Project Overview

Labour Conditions in Shrimp and Seafood Processing in Thailand

Thai fisheries industry is of vital importance to Thailand’s economy. Thailand is one of the world’s top ten fishing nations in terms of total catch. According to FAO , Thailand ranked third (behind China and Norway) in 2010 in the top-ten exporters of fish and fisheries products, with a value of US$7 billion (up from US$4 billion in 2000) Tuna, shrimp and fish are the major fishery products exported,

Fisheries sector is labour intensive and provides job opportunities for large numbers of Thai citizens but also attracts a large number of migrant workers from neighboring countries especially from Myanmar, Lao PDR, and Cambodia. Overall it is estimated that the fisheries sector generates employment for more than 2 million workers in fishing, processing, and related economic sectors.

For further information please see the industry snapshot document.

Recently, global attention has focused on labour conditions in the fisheries industry, which includes fishing, aquamarine farming, primary processing, and packing/processing for local and export markets related industries. The fisheries industry is characterized by high use of migrant workers, many of whom lack legal status and have entered Thailand through informal brokerage arrangements including being smuggled. Reports on incidents of child labour, forced labour, discrimination, trafficking in persons and generally gaps in working conditions regularly surface in the media, indicating a need to address labour protection in the industry. Addressing the situation concerning child labour and forced labour and strengthening the protection of migrant workers through safe, legal and non-expensive channels for migration has become a priority.

For further information please see thematic brochures on Child Labour, Forced Labour, Discrimination and Migrant Workers.

Trafficking of persons is also a concern for the project. Child trafficking is about taking children out of their protective environment and preying on their vulnerability for the purpose of exploitation. Although no precise figures exist, the ILO (in 2005) estimated that 980,000 to 1,225,000 children - both boys and girls - are in a forced labour situation as a result of trafficking. Child trafficking is a crime under international law and a violation of children’s rights. It reduces victims to mere
“commodities” to be bought, sold, transported and resold.  ILO Convention No. 182 (1999) on the Worst Forms of Child Labour (WFCL) classifies trafficking among “forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery” and thereby a WFCL to be eliminated as a matter of urgency, irrespective of the country’s level of development. Please see the IPEC brochure on child trafficking for more information.

While Thailand has laws and regulations and has enacted policies protection of workers such as on the eliminating of child labour and forced labour general improvement of compliance to labor laws and promotion of better working conditions in the shrimp and seafood processing industry has been identified by the Royal Thai Government as an area requiring attention. It is against this backdrop that in 2010 a four year International Labour Organization (ILO) Technical Cooperation project operated through its International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (ILO-IPEC) was launched to help address child labour and forced labour in the industry and to generally drive positive changes in improving working conditions in the sector.

For further information please see our project brochure.

Child labour in the shrimp and seafood production value chain has been identified in small-scale informal enterprises that engage in primary processing (i.e. sorting, peeling, and deveining shrimp). The employment of children in the other industry supply chain’s, both under and above the legal working age, in hazardous working conditions is also witnessed ranging from children’s employment in fishing industry, working at fish docks and markets, at aquamarine farms, at informal small processing businesses other than shrimp and also in larger packing and processing factories.

A 2012 ILO-IPEC study on child labour conducted in 4 seafood producing provinces established an average child labour prevalence rate in the age group of 5-17 years off 9.9%. In Samut Sakhon one of the biggest seafood industry hubs in Thailand the prevalence rate rose to 12.7%. From the economically active children in the age group of 15-17-years identified in the survey 36.2% were found in hazardous child labour indicating a need for improved protection for young workers.

The survey also uncovered other non-fisheries industry related occurrences of child labour such as in agriculture (rubber plantations, farming), services, child domestic work and assisting in small informal family processing or manufacturing businesses. Both Thai and migrant children were found and both boys and girls are equally affected.

For further information please see the baseline research summary.

The ILO-IPEC project in Thailand aims to create an industry that is free of child labour and forced labour and offers decent working conditions and opportunities in the future. It focuses on selected geographical hubs for shrimp and seafood processing such as Samut Sakhon, Samut Prakan, Surat Thani, Nakhon si Thammarat and Songkhla. This four-year initiative (2010-14) is funded by the United States Department of Labor.

For further information please see the project map and the project overview and partnerships document.

2. Project objectives

  • Strengthen policy and implementation frameworks to protect the rights of Thai, migrant and stateless children in relation to labour, education, employment and social protection.
  • Ensure enterprises throughout the shrimp industry supply chain comply with national labour laws and international labour standards, in particular those relating to child labour and forced labour; and introduce good practices in working conditions.
  • Provide accessible education, social protection and livelihood services to migrant and Thai children and their families in the targeted shrimp industry areas. 

3. Project strategy

  • To achieve sustained improvement in the child labour and forced labour situation in the shrimp and seafood processing industry, the project will promote taking a systemic approach concerning improvements in the application and enforcement of labour laws and will work to enhance institutional capacities of Government, private sector and workers organizations to address labour issues in the sector. 
  • It will actively work towards enhancing effective implementation of policies on labour protection, migration, education and social protection; and towards improving the governance, working conditions and regulation of the shrimp industry supply chain. It will also look at gaps in education and social services for vulnerable Thai and migrant communities.
  • It will promote and advance access of vulnerable Thai and migrant communities to education and social protection services and through direct action services and projects illustrate and put forwards inspiring practices related to access to education and betterment of livelihoods for vulnerable Thai and migrant communities. Communities and local authorities role in awareness raising and creating functional systems to monitor child labour through identification and referral will also be established.
  • The project is grounded in the ILO’s mandate for enhancing social dialogue. It will engage government, employers’ and workers’ organizations in taking lead role in action and advocacy that aim to eliminate child labour and forced labour in the industry. Enhancing employers and workers understanding and capacity to address child labour and forced labour and understanding of principles of non-discrimination and freedom of association and collective bargaining form an important pursuit of the project in belief that the realization of these fundamental international labour rights are mutually reinforcing and gaps in the realization of one will make advances in realization of fundamental rights in other areas less pronounced.

4. Expected general outcomes

In partnership with various stakeholders, the project endeavors to produce the following outcomes:
  • Systems established to prevent child labour and forced labour in the industry
  • Compliance to national labour law increased
  • Registration of inspection of enterprises in seafood and shrimp processing supply chain augmented
  • Direct education and livelihoods services provided to Thai and migrant communities in need
  • Better Protection and wellbeing for young workers aged 15-17
  • Better protection and welfare for migrant workers
  • Better regulation of recruitment practices
  • Better overall working conditions to all workers
  • Better communication social dialogue at the enterprise level
  • A multi-stakeholder engagement on working conditions in the sector established

5. Focus areas and themes of the project

The project will focus its efforts in support of child labour and forced labour free decent working conditions and opportunities through the following areas of work:

 6. Project Partners

7. Project Timeframe and Donor

The project is supported by the United States Department of Labor 
The project will be implemented through 30 December 2010 - 31 December 2014.

8. How We Are Making an Impact - Stories of the Beneficiaries and Those who are Making it Happen

For project news please see column on the right with full listing of events, news and press releases


For further information please contact:

Ms. Birgitte Krogh-Poulsen
Programme Manager
Tel.: +662 288 1789
Fax: +662 288 1019