Migrant and child labour in Thailand continues

16 Sep 2015
The new report looks at a range of issues, including workplace safety and education

The new report looks at a range of issues, including workplace safety and education

The International Labour Organization (ILO) and The Asia Foundation have recommended a series of practical policy measures in a new report which reveals the physical hazards faced by migrant child workers in Thailand’s shrimp and seafood processing industries.

The study, Migrant and Child Labor in Thailand’s Shrimp and Other Seafood Supply Chains: Labor Conditions and the Decision to Study or Work, looks at a range of issues, including workplace safety and education, that affect the social and economic position of migrant workers in the Thai fishing industry, especially those from Myanmar.

“Child labour is truly unacceptable in the 21st century,” said Maurizio Bussi, office-in-charge of the ILO’s Country Office for Thailand, Cambodia and Lao PDR. “Unfortunately, it remains a symptom of existing labour market governance challenges, coupled with a lack of genuine alternatives for vulnerable workers and their families to freely avail of.”

According to the joint report, children in the multi-billion dollar shrimp and seafood processing industrial hubs of Thailand were more frequently exposed to workplace hazards than those working in other industries, and twice as likely to sustain injuries. Earlier research commissioned by the ILO revealed that nearly 1 in 10 children under 18 were in child labour in these areas. Migrant children in these industries also work longer hours on average than Thai children (six hours per week longer). Only one-quarter of working children in shrimp and seafood processing aged 15-17 were aware of child labour laws, and nearly 65% of those workers did not have the legal protection of a contract.

“The push and pull factors have to be better understood. Unquestionably, a concerted and well-coordinated multi-stakeholder response is critical to tackle labour standards violations, such as child labour, in this highly complex supply chain,” Mr Bussi added.

The report also found significant differences in adherence to labour standards and oversight between processing operations that were part of export-oriented value chains and those for the domestic Thai market. For example, the highly consolidated and export-focused canned tuna industry is characterised by stricter monitoring mechanisms and labour standards, while the Thai shrimp industry is more diverse. The report says the dispersion of industry actors has made it very difficult for Thai government authorities to regulate all parts of the production chain.

Recommendations made in the report include a series of practical policy measures and other actions that could be taken by government, industry, and civil society to ensure safer working environments for workers of legal working age; improved working conditions for all workers irrespective of their legal status in Thailand; and improved access to education for children that are required by law to be in school rather than working.

The full report can be downloaded online.

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