Migrant Forum in Asia
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Email: mfa@mfasia.org | Website: www.mfasia.org

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Wage Theft and Forced Labour Among Migrant Workers in South East Asia: Impacts of COVID-19 and Policy Responses

In partnership with the ASEAN–Australia Counter Trafficking (ASEAN-ACT) with the support of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), Migrant Forum in Asia conducted a study entitled, “Wage Theft and Forced Labour among Migrant Workers in Southeast Asia: Impacts of COVID-19 and Policy Responses”. The study examines the linkages between wage theft and forced labour in labour migration within ASEAN, and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on this phenomenon. The report seeks to provide an evidence base for policymakers on wage theft, and relatedly counter human trafficking and forced labour.

The study was carried out in five countries in ASEAN, being Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Philippines and Indonesia, to capture experiences in both countries of destination and origin. Interviews were conducted with 451 migrant workers and further in-depth key informant interviews and focus group discussions with 140 respondents The study also assesses the impact of the policies and practices of the government and non-government stakeholders in ASEAN during the COVID-19 pandemic on the indicators of forced labour and incidence of wage theft.

The findings of the research indicate a strong correlation between wage theft and migrant workers’ experience of forced labour during the pandemic. 31% of respondents reported experiencing wage theft, among whom 46% were found to also have been in conditions of forced labour. The high incidence of wage theft worsened their working and living conditions during employment and upon return to their home countries. Vulnerability to wage theft and forced labour also appears to be influenced by factors such as irregularity in the migration process, a lack of effective protection or support mechanisms, lack of information provided to migrants, poor access to services, violation or absence of contracts, and lack of prioritisation of policies for migrant workers.

Download the full text of the study below

About Us

MFA is a regional network of non-government organizations (NGOs), associations and trade unions of migrant workers, and individual advocates in Asia who are committed to protect and promote the rights and welfare of migrant workers.

It is guided by a vision of an alternative world system based on respect for human rights and dignity, social justice, and gender equity, particularly for migrant workers.

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