If you are reading this on a tablet, smart phone or computer monitor, then you may be holding a product of forced labor. Verité’s two-year study of labor conditions in electronics manufacturing in Malaysia has found that one in three foreign workers surveyed was in a condition of forced labor. Because many of the most recognizable brands source components of their products from Malaysia, almost any device you purchase may have come in contact with modern-day slavery. Many customers have never heard the stories that most of the migrant workers living in Malaysia can recite by heart. One such story goes like this. In 2011, a Nepali man named Bishal (not his real name) applied for a job with a Malaysian electronics company. He was told he could only be employed if he first paid a $1,266 fee — about double the average annual income in Nepal.
For the last two years, Verité has been meeting with migrant workers in the electronics sector in Malaysia to understand their experiences. Our findings shocked us – one in three of the hundreds of thousands of migrants working in Malaysian electronics manufacturing is in a condition of forced labor. These Burmese, Nepalis, Indians, Bangladeshis, Vietnamese, Thais, Indonesians and Filipinos work in modern factories. But because they are foreigners they are often employed by third-party labor agents rather than the factories themselves.