Across the globe, millions of men and women migrate in order to find jobs. Many of them provide for their families by working in factories to manufacture clothing and footwear for some of the largest international brands. While some of these workers are successful in finding suitable employment, many others face difficulties ranging from homesickness to bad working conditions, and may even be forced into trafficking – otherwise known as modern-day slavery.
There are 214 million international migrants worldwide. The majority of this population move in order to find work and to provide for their families. Many of these people are successful; in 2009 alone, migrants sent an estimated $414 billion back to families in their home countries. However, labor protections for migrant workers are notoriously weak, and millions of migrant workers face abysmal working conditions and become victims of trafficking—a modern-day slave trade.
FLA’s research, assessments and surveys over the past two years confirm that excessive working hours have a negative impact on workers, often resulting in physical and psychological stress for workers and increased worker turnover. FLA surveys in China found that an estimated 50 percent of workers in the garment industry and 80 percent in electronics manufacturing work more than 60 hours per week, and an estimated 80 percent regularly work more than 7 days in a row. Even more alarming is the fact that 20 percent sometimes work more than 24 consecutive days without a day of rest.
Understanding workers’ perception of the factories they work in is essential for management seeking to recruit and retain talented and qualified employees. The Fair Labor Association’s SCOPE Workers’ Surveys are standardized, quantitative questionnaires which are completed anonymously by a randomly-selected, representative sample of workers. SCOPE surveys measure the effectiveness and impact of factories’ social compliance efforts in areas such as hours of work; hiring; communication; and grievance and complaint systems.
The Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic at Yale Law School recently released a report titled “How Widespread Use of Fixed-Duration Contracts Threatens Cambodian Workers and the Cambodian Garment Industry.” According to the report, the increased use of fixed-duration contracts (FDCs) in Cambodia:
This is a guest post by Kathryn “Kitty” Higgins, to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the convening of the Apparel Industry Partnership – which has evolved into the Fair Labor Association. Ms. Higgins served as Deputy Secretary for the U.S. Department of Labor and is currently Chair of the Fair Labor Association Board of Directors.
Rohini Chandrasekaran, FLA’s Agriculture Program Coordinator, recently visited several Syngenta-contracted farms producing hybrid vegetable seeds in India. Syngenta is a Participating Company in the FLA. One of the objectives of her trip was to learn more about the impact of Sygenta’s affiliation with FLA on the lives of workers. This is a guest post from Rohini.
The International Trade Center’s (ITC) Ethical Fashion Program supports the development of marginalized communities of women in Kenya and Uganda, mostly groups of artisans based in poor rural and urban settings. The program enables disadvantaged African communities and their groups of informal manufacturers to become part of the global supply chain, thus developing their export capacities and strengthening their position in both the domestic and regional markets. The project is based on a joint effort of the ITC and Ethical Fashion Africa Ltd. (EFAL), which is based in Nairobi.