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Thailand: Forced labour & exploitation in seafood industry persist as result of buyers' business model, research reveals

ILO Ship to Shore Rights Project. Photo credit: ILO

In December 2019, Freedom Fund and Humanity United released 'Tracking Progress: Assessing Business Responses to Forced Labour and Human Trafficking in the Thai Seafood Industry', which examines how the seafood sector has addressed the issues of forced labour in Thailand.

The assessment - which has a particular focus on the private sector and the Seafood Task Force -  highlights that although forced labour and the exploitation of workers is being discussed and starting to be addressed in certain ways, the underlying business model that enables and incentivises worker exploitation has not changed. 

Amongst its key findings is the need for buyer companies, such as US and EU supermarkets and retailers, to change their purchasing practices to support supplier efforts to end forced labor, and shift away from sourcing decisions that are driven primarily by the lowest price.

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4 December 2019

Thailand: Efforts to protect seafood workers stalled by brands refusing to invest in new anti-slavery policies, report suggests

Author: Nanchanok Wongsamuth, Thomson Reuters Foundation

"Major brands found failing to help Thai seafood sector tackle slavery", 4 December 2019

Efforts to protect Thai seafood workers from labour exploitation and modern slavery risk stalling as most international brands and retailers refuse to pay their suppliers more to comply with new anti-slavery policies, researchers said...

...Thai seafood suppliers are struggling with rising production costs as they seek to improve labour conditions and meet new anti-slavery laws and regulations, with little or no financial help from big buyers...

...The Thai government has in recent years overhauled the legal framework governing fishing, regulated recruitment agents, updated anti-trafficking laws to cover forced labour, and implemented more stringent monitoring of fisheries.

But the report said that complying with new laws and regulations has increased production costs, while most international buyers were refusing to increase their prices...


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4 December 2019

Thailand: New report on forced labour in seafood industry tracks progress & pitfalls, highlighting unethical business practices

Author: Ame Sagiv, Humanity United & Sarah Mount, The Freedom Fund


...Humanity United and The Freedom Fund['s]... research... finds that the seafood industry has indeed made some progress... [but] is being undermined by a failure to fundamentally change the business model... [D]ecisions are still driven primarily by price, and do not include realistic considerations relating to human rights and environmental sustainability...

Encouragingly... [there are] a number of areas of emerging good practice and progress... [however] there are large gaps still remaining...

Brands and buyers need to acknowledge that their own business practices allow – and can actually encourage – forced labour to persist in supply chains...

The industry must shift away from endeavouring to meet buyer demand for cheap seafood by relying on unethical practices... Ending forced labour requires a marketplace where buyer demands don’t incentivize the very practices that they claim to abhor...

... [If implemented, the] recommendations... will help move the industry closer to the end of reliance on forced labour... and the exploitation of workers.

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4 December 2019

Thailand: Report assesses business responses to forced labour & exploitation in seafood industry

Author: Praxis Labs

"Tracking Progress: Assessing Business Responses to Forced Labour and Human Trafficking in the Thai Seafood Industry", 

This report provides an independent, field-based assessment of the reforms in the Thai fishing industry, and offers practical recommendations for improvement.

The report is divided into four chapters. The first aggregates data from 28 seafood suppliers, buyers, and retailers to identify prominent private sector responses, areas of good practice, and remaining gaps. The second examines the collective industry response through the Seafood Task Force. The third looks briefly at the government/private sector nexus and the need to institutionalise legal reforms in Thailand. Based on the perspectives of 280 migrant workers, the final chapter looks at what has changed on the ground, where there have been unintended consequences, and where issues impeding decent work persist. 

[The report is attached]

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