The most significant contributor to the ongoing presence of debt bondage or forced labor in global supply chains is the burden of recruitment fees and expenses on migrant workers. Many employers and recruiters in high risk global supply chains build business models on charging unskilled and low-skilled workers fees for employment. Specifically, employers pay no or insufficient professional service fees to the recruitment agents they engage to find them workers. Rather, they knowingly allow agents to recoup revenue and the significant legitimate expenses associated with international labor migration—such as government approvals and travel costs—from the workers themselves.
KnowTheChain’s latest benchmark evaluates the 20 largest global food and beverage companies across seven themes related to labor standards. The report found that the response to forced labor risk in the food and beverage sector is inadequate.
There are an estimated 168 million children engaged in child labor worldwide. In order to continue the fight against it today Deputy Secretary of Labor Chris Lu released a new report 2014 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child and launched two mobile applications to help some of the most vulnerable people worldwide by utilizing the power of digital technology. Verité’s CEO Dan Viederman was a panelist at the release event in Washington D.C to discuss ways to leverage data in support of innovative strategies to tackle human rights concerns.
Have we reached a tipping point in promoting ethical recruitment in global supply chains? I think it’s pretty safe to say that we have not—but there has been a lot of good work recently among global companies and the private sector on the subject, most of it focused on the recruitment fees charged to workers.
The recent migrant worker policy adopted by Patagonia, the US outdoor clothing company, is a case in point. It explicitly prohibits suppliers from charging fees, expenses or deposits to workers for recruitment or employment services, echoing similar policies adopted by Apple and HP in the electronics industry late last year.