Some 21 to 46 million persons are trafficked into forced labour and slavery each year. Behind these staggering statistics are human beings – women, men and children – with aspirations for a better life. Many of them are simply job seekers looking for a steady wage to support themselves and their families. When good-paying jobs are scarce, as is frequently the case in Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and Mexico, hopeful workers leave their countries and migrant to nearby ones, where job markets are stronger. Aided by locals who work as labor recruiters, they are set up with jobs - though sometimes not the ones they bargained for. In exchange, these cash-poor migrant workers sign over a portion of their future paychecks in the form of several fees -- which often turns out to be a significant percentage of workers' future earnings.
This is what is commonly known as the "worker-pay" model of labor recruitment, and it is extremely prevalent in multiple industries, including agriculture, apparel and tobacco. You can read our in-depth analysis of the practice and what investors and global companies are doing to fight it here.
Migrant workers are hit with fees from both their recruiters, and by the governments in their host countries. Often the fees are surprise charges which workers weren't told about during initial conversations with their recruiters. Below we highlight 23 typical fees. Note that some individual fees run more than 50% of a worker's monthly salary.
Altogether, the total fees paid by one worker to secure just one job can take years to pay off. The worker then becomes financially trapped, unable to leave.
In its work with global companies with complex supply chains, ICCR is promoting an alternative "employer-pays" model.