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Forced labour

Arisa frequently comes across cases of forced labour in South Asian supply chains. However, it is often impossible to tell at first glance whether a situation involves forced labour.

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Forced labour is a human rights violation that takes many forms and that Arisa often encounters in South Asian supply chains. There are many ways in which pressure can be brought to bear on a worker, forcing them to continue working in inhumane conditions or for little or nothing paid. Such pressure may include threats of violence, the withholding of wages or the confiscation of identity documents. Stopping work is also made difficult by the fact that workers are often dependent on the employer for housing.  

The problem of forced labour is particularly acute for migrant workers, who are already vulnerable due to housing dependency, language problems and, in many cases, debt.  

At the time of recruitment, workers often receive an advance payment, creating a debt that must be repaid through work. In other cases, the employer ‘reserves’ part of the wage and pays it only after a delay. In this way, the worker is trapped with the employer for a considerable period of time. These are all examples of how forced labour operates in South Asian supply chains.   

It is often impossible to tell at first glance whether a situation involves forced labour. The first challenge is to identify and recognise a situation as forced labour. To address this issue, Arisa advocates decent working conditions (‘decent work’) and the payment of a living wage.