Migrant workers

Migrant Advocacy for Rights

The project aims to improve the rights realization of migrant workers in informal agriculture and manufacturing in, and beyond, special economic zones in Thailand.

Women working in an orchid farm nursery in Thailand. © Thierry Falise/ILO

Background

Thailand is the main country of destination for migrant workers in South-East Asia, with 2.5 million documented migrant workers from Cambodia, Lao People's Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) and Myanmar, in addition to a large number of undocumented migrant workers. Many migrants have positive migration experiences, yet situations of rights abuses abound. Among the sectors migrants work in, agriculture and manufacturing employ over 1 million documented migrant workers in Thailand. Feeding into major global supply chains, informal agriculture and manufacturing are particularly characterized by decent work deficits.

Migrants in the informal economy are largely excluded from labour and social protection and have very few opportunities to join trade unions, bargain collectively and advocate for their rights. Those working informally particularly face low wages, passport confiscation, impairments due to unsafe workplaces, and excessive hours. Gender-segregated occupations (including for LGBTQI+ migrants), pay differentials and regular dismissal upon pregnancy compound matters.

Migrant worker organizing and advocacy is crucial to evidence-based legal reform in Thailand’s informal economy. ILO studies continue to show benefits of enhancing organizing to amplify migrant workers’ voices as part of tripartism and advocacy efforts to effect change in laws and in workplaces.

Outcomes

The project “Migrant Advocacy for Rights” aims to improve the rights realization of migrant workers in informal agriculture and manufacturing in, and beyond, special economic zones in Thailand.

The project will contribute to the following outcomes:
  • Workers are aware of their rights to organize and an increased number of migrant workers join unions and peer networks.
  • Labour and social protection law and policy reforms increasingly and inclusively formalize currently informal, migrant-reliant sectors, giving migrant workers access to formalized payments, paid overtime, better occupational health and safety conditions, social protections, including maternity and disability related protections, and effective dispute resolution. 
  • The government of Thailand has more effective admission policies and practices in place and coordinates with Cambodia and Lao PDR, to improve safe migration patterns and fair recruitment.
  • Workers and allied groups advocate for diligent enforcement of labour law within migrant workplaces, including in SEZs, via gender-sensitive, inclusive labour inspection or other methods such as complaints mechanisms and wage protection mechanisms.
This project’s approach is one of inclusive migrant worker organizing and advocacy, backed by provision of ILO’s gender- and rights-based technical advice on legal reform. The project’s Gender and Inclusion Strategy will ensure the project directly reaches and is inclusive of women, LGBTQI+, and migrants with disabilities among other marginalized groups, and that diverse voices are heard.

Partners

Government, workers’ and employers’ organizations, civil society organizations and migrant worker peer networks

Target beneficiaries

Women and men migrant workers in informal agriculture and manufacturing work

For further information please contact:

Rebecca Napier-Moore
Email: napiermoore@ilo.org