Recruitment practices and seasonal employment in agriculture in Uzbekistan 2014-15

This ILO survey Report paints a qualitative and quantitative picture of the recruitment experience of adults picking cotton in Uzbekistan.

Almost one quarter of the adult population are engaged at some time during the harvest each year picking cotton by hand. Two-thirds of pickers are women. Managing this workforce is an enormous task.

Cotton remains a significant part of the Uzbekistan economy, despite government policy to diversify agricultural production. Cotton will provide jobs and incomes and contribute to foreign exchange earnings for many years to come. Reform of the labour market is on the Government’s agenda. So this survey is a timely contribution to achieving fair recruitment and decent work for seasonal workers in Uzbekistan.

The idea for this survey arose from discussions over many years between the ILO and its Uzbekistan constituents (Government, Federation of Trade Unions and Chamber of Commerce and Industry). Responding to conclusions of the ILO’s Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations, Uzbekistan and the ILO agreed a Decent Work Country Programme 2014-2016 – since extended to 2020 - to deepen and broaden co-operation on a range of labour and social protection issues, including on child labour and forced labour.

The overall message of the survey is positive. It points to an alternative model of recruitment and employment that removes the need for low-productivity forced labour. If wages and working conditions were improved such that reluctant workers became volunteers, the whole harvest could be picked by the larger number of volunteers simply due of their higher productivity. Thus, the elimination of forced labour is an entirely manageable problem.