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Protection, Not Restrictions! Organising and Mobilising Returnee Migrant Workers to Lift Gender-Based Migration Bans and Restrictions
Labour migration has been the main pillar of Nepal’s economy. The number of Nepali migrant workers in foreign countries ranges from 2.4 million to 3 million1 . Labour migration in Nepal is heavily male dominated with 95 per cent of labour permits being granted to men2 . However, the official data is unable to capture the number of workers who leave the country for work through irregular channels, which indicates that women migration might be as high as 12 per cent of the total workforce abroad. The majority of Nepali women migrant workers are employed as domestic workers, and the major destination countries are UAE, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, Malaysia and Hong Kong. In response to the reports of human rights violations of migrant domestic workers abroad, the Government of Nepal imposed travel bans and restrictions for women from working as domestic workers in foreign countries. Far from protecting the Nepali migrant women, the travel restrictions discriminate against women and endanger them by increasing the risk of human trafficking and exploitation.
Recognising and Empowering Migrant Sex Workers as Workers to Gain Legal Protection and Access to Health
An estimated 2.8 million female sex workers across India comprise service providers voluntarily, coerced and under-age1 . The involvement of migrants in the local sex trade is not limited to those classified as trafficked or smuggled: many new landed immigrants – women primarily – turn to sex work due to the lack of viable economic alternatives, often worsened by family breakdown. According to the Suppression of Immoral Traffic in Women and Girls Act (1956), amended in 1986 as The Immoral Traffic Prevention Act, sex work is not a crime in India as long as they conduct it in private spaces. However, multitudes of activities associated with it, such as pimping and managing brothels, are illegal. Consequently, it fuels multiple human rights violations toward sex workers, including a high rate of violence in the sex industry, child sex workers, lack of access to health care and a high rate of HIV/AIDS infection. Moreover, the policies around rescue and rehabilitation for sex workers are based on the premise that sex work is immoral, which is improbable to promote sex workers’ wellbeing effectively. In addition, migrant sex workers remain primarily outside of India’s legal, medical and social services structures. Poor language skills, undocumented status, limited understanding of laws and regulations as well as the absence of support networks put migrant sex workers at a greater risk of abuse and exploitation.
Global Gender Strategy
Better Work’s five-year gender strategy will empower women, reduce sexual harassment and close the gender pay gap in the global garment industry. Although women represent around 80 per cent of the workforce in the garment sector worldwide, they are concentrated in the lowest-paying, lowest-skilled occupations. Gender-based discrimination during recruitment processes and sexual harassment in the workplace remain widespread. Social norms and the predominance of working mothers also contribute to a sizeable gender pay gap, with female factory workers earning up to 21 per cent less per hour than their male counterparts. Building on it’s on-the-ground experience and compelling research findings, Better Work’s gender strategy aims to unite partners from the public and private sector to scale up what has proven to work to empower women, increase productivity and improve the lives of workers and their family members. The strategy will be implemented through targeted factory initiatives, and by strengthening policies and practices at the national, regional and international levels.
World Migration Report 2022
The vast majority of people continue to live in the countries in which they were born —only one in 30 are migrants. In most discussions on migration, the starting point is usually numbers. Understanding changes in scale, emerging trends and shifting demographics related to global social and economic transformations, such as migration, help us make sense of the changing world we live in and plan for the future. The current global estimate is that there were around 281 million international migrants in the world in 2020, which equates to 3.6 per cent of the global population.
Organising women cleaners to demand a living wage and improved working conditions in Thai public hospitals
Due to pervading gender roles and traditional views on what is considered ‘women’s work’, a majority of the cleaners employed at public hospitals are women. Hospital cleaners are some of the lowest paid workers in Thailand and many of them struggle to earn a decent living as the minimum wage they receive is insufficient to cover their basic needs. One of the root causes behind their labour rights violations is hospitals’ non-compliance with the Labour Protection Act and the Social Security Act, which entitle women workers to basic labour rights. As a result, many women workers are subjected to unlawful wage deductions and continuously denied paid leave and social security coverage. Many women cleaners are recruited through external agencies and companies who set the terms and conditions of employment that are not in line with the labour standards. Many women workers are in general unaware of their basic labour rights and others refrain from reporting unlawful labour practices out of fear of reprisals from their employers.
Women Nurses Demand Decent Work in Public Hospitals
Gender norms are an enforced social expectation on how women and men should behave, and profoundly shape the world of work leading to the systematic subordination of women in healthcare work. In Thailand, most nurses are women, and the profession continues to be undervalued with the lack of access to decent work.
Organising Domestic Workers in Chennai City for a Living Wage
In the last three decades, since economic liberalisation was introduced in India in 1991, the decline in rural employment, low wages in agricultural employment and the removal of subsidies to the small agricultural sector have led to rural-urban migration in many parts of India, including Chennai. The shift in the employment sector in the Chennai area is driven by infrastructure development which tends to accommodate the needs of the middle class, such as big gate housing, shopping malls, entertainment centres and Information Technology (IT) parks. Today, women’s employment is largely concentrated in the household sector, IT industries and hotels as facility workers, municipal cleaning work, retail and packaging.
Working condition of women contractual workers in Readymade Garment Sector in Bangladesh
The Ready-Made Garment (RMG) industry in Bangladesh employs over four million workers in 4,560 garment factories scattered across the country. Amongst the workers about 70 per cent are women. In 2017-2018, over 83 per cent of the country’s export earnings came from the RMG sector totaling USD 30.6 billion1, making Bangladesh the second-largest global apparel exporter after China.
Work Flexibilisation and Its Impact on BPO Women Workers in Metro Manila
According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), the total number of employed by the BPO industry in the Philippines reached 1.3 million in 2016, of which at least 53.2 per cent are women. The BPO industry in the country mainly exports its service to foreign countries. Estimatedly 86 per cent of BPO service in the Philippines goes to the United States market, distantly followed by 7.1 per cent to Europe, and the rest to Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. According to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, the BPO revenue in the country reached USD 22.1 billion in 2017, constituting about 7 per cent of the country’s GDP. Even though the revenue is significant, the labour rights in the industry are failing to uphold labour rights standards.
Socio-economic impact of large scale palm oil plantation on women workers in Central Kalimantan
Indonesia is the largest palm oil producer in the world. As palm oil is widely used in approximately 50 per cent of consumers’ products such as food and household items, the demand has led to an exponential growth of palm oil plantation business in Central Kalimantan of Indonesia. It is estimated that 85 per cent of the land in Central Kalimantan is utilised for private business such as palm oil plantation, coal and gold mining, and logging. In addition to the environmental destruction caused by such extractive industries, the impact of palm oil plantation on human rights including land grabbing, violations of the indigenous people’s rights and workers’ rights are already well documented
Organising women factory workers in Myanmar to demand their labour rights
Since Myanmar opened up to economic investment with the lifting of economic sanctions in 2016, the country rapidly became a major sourcing site for the garment industry due to the supply of cheap labour and favourable import and export tariffs.1 Although a budding industry, in comparison to other garment-producing countries in the region, the garment industry in Myanmar is steadily growing and in 2018, generated more than 4.55 trillion kyat (USD3 billion). The garment industry employs more than 400,000 workers out of which more than 90 per cent are women.2 Some of the foreign companies that the factories supply to include H&M, C&A and Muji.3 Yet, women factory workers face continuous labour rights violations, unacceptable working conditions and below subsistence wages.
Organising women street vendors in Phnom Penh to demand labour rights
With the fall of the Democratic Kampuchea regime in 1979, Cambodians started moving back to the previously empty city of Phnom Penh1. The main occupation that people engaged in was trade, mainly in the form of barter. Today, vending remains the primary source of income for many people in Phnom Penh with 75 percent of women making up a majority of 16,419 street vendors2 in 2019. Street vendors are part of the informal labour sector and contribute greatly to the national economy. Approximately 80 per cent of GDP and 95 per cent of employment in Cambodia come from the informal sector. In spite of the significant contribution that women street vendors make to the Cambodian economy, they remain an invisible and unrecognised workforce. There are no current laws in place to protect women street vendors and as a result, they continue to face various challenges and problems. For instance, women street vendors are often harassed by the police and authorities who demand money from them. Also, as self-employed informal workers, street vendors have no access to social security such as health care and child care.
Organising returnee migrant workers against the practice of recruitment agencies confiscating personal documents
Indonesia is the origin country for millions of migrant workers worldwide. In 2017, an estimated nine million Indonesians were working abroad. Up to 65 per cent were women, and the majority were employed as domestic workers. The existing laws leave the protection of migrant workers entirely up to the recruitment agencies. The Government of Indonesia requires prospective migrant domestic workers to apply for overseas employment through government-approved private recruitment agencies. However, the weak implementation of law protection and the profit-driven nature of the recruitment agencies leaves room for the recruiters to adopt unethical and criminal practices at the expense of the migrant workers. Some of the malpractices include charging exorbitant recruitment fees, document forgery and confiscation of personal documents that can potentially lead to forced labour - migrant domestic workers are compelled to work in conditions that violate labour rights and are coerced to pay the debt incurred by recruitment fees.
Organising Indonesian Migrant Domestic Workers in Hong Kong to Combat Overcharging and Illegal Collection of Agency Fees
Hong Kong is the destination of around 400,000 Migrant Domestic Workers (MDWs) coming from the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Nepal, India, Bangladesh and Burma/ Myanmar. Indonesian MDWs rank as the second biggest group, with an estimated total of 177,570 workers, after the Philippines. Indonesian migrant workers are mostly women, who perform a wide range of domestic jobs such as caretakers. They serve as the pillar of economic growth, sustaining the care economy and enabling more than 110,000 residents, mainly women in Hong Kong, to participate in the workforce. Due to the increase in the ageing population and the shortage of affordable care services, the number of MDWs filling these gaps in care positions continues to rise. The MDWs have partial legal protection: they are covered by the Employment Ordinance and Employees’ Compensation Ordinance, which legally requires rest days, annual leave and compensation, but they are excluded from the Minimum Wage Ordinance and social security. Due to the weak implementation of the law, MDWs still experience various types of exploitation and human rights violations including illegal agency fees, excessive recruitment fees and debt bondage by private agencies and employers.
Fighting Behind Closed Doors The Demand for Recognition and the Legal Protection of Domestic Workers in Malaysia
Malaysia is a notable destination for migrant workers from Indonesia, Burma/Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, India, the Philippines, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. Migrant workers have long been an integral part of Malaysia’s economy. Official data shows that the number of regular migrant workers in Malaysia is 1.9 million, comprising 15 per cent of the total workforce; while the International Organisation of Migration (IOM) estimates irregular or undocumented migrant workers in the range from 1.4 to 3 million, highly concentrated in manufacturing, agriculture, construction, forestry and services sectors. About seven per cent of migrant workers in Malaysia are employed as domestic workers. They provide essential care services to keep families safe, clean and comfortable, and enable the caregivers, mostly local women, to participate in the labour force. Despite their tremendous contribution, domestic workers still earn some of the lowest wages in the labour market and remain unrecognised, undervalued and invisible. In the Malaysian Employment Act 1955, domestic workers were classified as servants, maids and helpers, and excluded from the coverage of national labour law and social protection. As a result, female domestic workers are particularly vulnerable to exploitative working conditions and experience various forms of violence and abuse.
Recognising and Protecting the Rights of Internal Migrant Domestic Workers
Internal migration has long played a significant role in the Nepali economy. There are an estimated 2.6 million internal migrants in Nepal, with the majority of them being informal workers, including 1.7 million daily-wage workers and another one million workers on temporary contracts. Among all the internal migrants, around 13 per cent are women. While the international migration flows are dominated by men, more women are filling gaps to take on the breadwinner role, perform housekeeping tasks or migrate internally to access employment opportunities, especially when income from male family members is not forthcoming or not enough to support the family. Domestic work is one of the more accessible options for women to be involved in the labour market. However, in the absence of decent wages, job security and inclusion in other social security and protection mechanisms, internal migrant domestic workers (IMDW) are particularly vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. Although the existing legal framework (the Labour Act 2017) covers the protection of domestic workers, weak implementation of the law has led to domestic workers remaining unprotected and subjected to various forms of human rights violations.
Persistent non-compliance FAQs
Better Work differentiates factories and services according to factory performance levels. This is done using objective, performance based criteria to ensure that the programme can effectively target its interventions. The Better Work differentiation framework makes use of incentives, recognition and exclusive services for high performance factories, and progressive warnings and pressure points for factories where improvements are not realized. As an integral element of its approach to differentiate factories, Better Work has developed a framework to address persistent non-compliance (PNC). The PNC framework is an additional and stronger mechanism to change the behaviors, attitudes and compliance levels of a small group of factories that demonstrate an inability or are not sufficiently committed to improving. It creates an additional mechanism to stimulate improvement as part of a broader strategy to strengthen the garment sector as a whole. Better Work implements this framework at the national level with a strong role for the Labour Inspectorate. The PNC framework is initially only implemented in Vietnam. Elements of this approach may be replicated to other countries in the future. The purpose of this document is to describe the PNC framework and to offer guidance to brands and factories to support them in preventing PNC designation.
Guidance for Better Work’s Online Improvement Plan
This document focuses on supporting brands to: ♦ Review the Improvement Plan online ♦ Follow up on the Improvement Plan in advisory services
Business and Factory Contribution Overview 2022
This document provides an overview of the structure of the plans offered to Buyer Partners, Participants and Factories. The principles behind Better Work’s factory contribution model are: ♦ Consistency ♦ Fairness ♦ Transparency and predictability ♦ Administrative ease ♦ Developmentally sensitive to the needs of small and medium size factories ♦ Cost recovery ♦ Progressive expansion
Organising Rakhine indigenous women for participation in national and local climate justice processes
This CJFPAR was conducted by Maleya Foundation, an organisation working for the rights of indigenous peoples in Bangladesh along with Rakhine Social Development Organisation (RSDO). Maleya conducted the CJFPAR with women from 13 villages in the coastal area of Taltoli, Barguna and Barishal. The CJFPAR worked with the Rakhine indigenous community. The community is facing risks from natural disasters and is being alienated from their land and forests by land grabbers and creation of protected forests, etc. It focused on building capacities of the Rakhine women to understand climate change, land and forest rights and to participate in public hearings, governance and decision-making processes, etc.
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