JAKARTA (ILO News): In a new global report on forced labour, the International Labour Office (ILO) says the “opportunity cost” of coercion to the workers affected reaches over USD 20 billion per year. The report, entitled The Cost of Coercion1, also details the growing number of unethical, fraudulent and criminal practices that can lead people into situations of forced labour, and calls for increased efforts to eradicate the practices.
The report points out that among the intensified international and national efforts to reduce and prevent forced labour, are new laws and policies at national and regional level, as well as a growing provision of social protection for those most at risk of forced labour and trafficking. “Most forced labour is still found in developing countries, often in the informal economy and in isolated regions with poor infrastructure, labour inspection and law enforcement,” the report says. “This can only be tackled through integrated policies and programmes, mixing law enforcement with proactive measures of prevention and protection, and empowering those at risk of forced labour to defend their own rights.”
The report will be launched in Indonesia on Tuesday, 19 May 2009, from 01.30 PM onwards at Plaza FX Senayan, Jakarta. The launch will be followed by an interactive national stakeholder hearing, titled “The Plight of Indonesian Domestic Workers” focusing on an Indonesian group of workers of particular concern. The hearing, organized in collaboration with SmartFM Network, a leading radio station, will be broadcast live in Indonesia via radio networks based in Jakarta, Medan, Makassar, Balikpapan, and Semarang.
The hearing will examine the gaps in the protection of vulnerable population groups from forced labour and trafficking, and will highlight the significance of the planned ILO international labour convention for domestic workers. The dialogue will also discuss and pinpoint the priorities for action by the Indonesian Government and other stakeholders against forced labour and trafficking of vulnerable population groups. National stakeholder representatives from the Indonesian Government, independent Human Rights Commissions, trade union confederations, employers’ organizations, national and international organizations, and mass media will participate in the discussion as resource persons and participants.
“We must never forget that forced labour is a serious criminal offence that requires criminal punishment. But we must also remember that forced labour is often poorly defined in national legislation, making it difficult to address the multiple subtle ways in which workers can be denied their freedom. The challenge is to address these problems in an integrated way, through prevention and law enforcement, using both labour standards and criminal justice,” said Alan Boulton, Director of the ILO in Indonesia.
With regard to the situation in Indonesia, the report recognizes the efforts undertaken by the Indonesian Government, such as the creation of the Placement Board for Placement and Protection of the Indonesian Overseas Workers (BNP2TKI) and the establishment of shelters as well as service centers in some Indonesian embassies in a number of main destination countries for Indonesian migrant workers.
These measures are recognized as improving the services and assistance available to Indonesian migrant workers. The report also commends the Indonesian Migrant Workers Union (SBMI) for providing information and services to Indonesian migrant workers, and for raising public awareness on the vulnerability of Indonesian migrant workers.
However, noting the prevalent institutionalized practices by in particular recruitment agencies, employers and complicit officials, the report exhorts the Indonesian Government to redouble its efforts to strengthen the policies, mechanisms and practices for the effective protection of Indonesian migrant workers forced labour and trafficking. It notes with concern the particularly vulnerable situation of migrant domestic workers.
In this regard, the report highlights dubious recruitment practices undertaken by the so-called “calo” or middle man and recruitment agencies, excessive placement fees and employment agencies’ “holding centers” where migrant domestic workers are effectively detained, practices sanctioned by existing national policies. It also notes that these practices effectively constitute debt-bondage, forced labour and trafficking of Indonesian migrant domestic workers.
1 « The cost of coercion, » Global Report under the follow-up to the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work 2009, International Labour Office, Geneva, ISBN 978-92-2-120628-6