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The elimination of forced or compulsory labour. Contemporary challenges Caroline O’Reilly Special Action Programme to combat Forced Labour, IFP/Declaration ITC Turin/ACTRAV 3 March 2005. SAP-FL : What we do. Established in 2001 after publication of « Stopping Forced Labour »

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the elimination of forced or compulsory labour

The elimination of forced or compulsory labour

Contemporary challenges

Caroline O’Reilly

Special Action Programme to combat Forced Labour, IFP/Declaration

ITC Turin/ACTRAV 3 March 2005

sap fl what we do
SAP-FL : What we do
  • Established in 2001 after publication of « Stopping Forced Labour »
  • Increase understanding of contemporary forced labour
  • Advocacy and awareness raising
  • Strengthen capacity of ILO constituents and others for effective action to eliminate forced labour practices
  • Increase external visibility of ILO’s role and activities and internal coherence
what is forced labour ilo convention no 29 forced labour convention 1930
What is forced labour? ILO Convention No.29 Forced Labour Convention (1930)

« Forced or compulsory labour shall mean all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of a penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily » Art. 2

  • Exaction of forced labour must be punishable as a penal offence with penalties that are really adequate and strictly enforced
two basic elements to the ilo definition
Two basic elements to the ILO definition
  • Menace of a penalty – can be physical coercion, pyschological pressure or threats (e.g of deportation or handing over to authorities in cases of trafficking or irregular migration), or threats to family members, or threat of dismissal
  • Involuntariness of labour relationship – lack of freedom to leave the job (even if entered into it « voluntarily ») e.g debt bondage
  • Compulsory military services for work of purely military character
  • normal civic obligations
  • forced prison labour as a result of a conviction in a court of law and carried out under the control of a public authority
  • work exacted in cases of emergency
  • minor communal services in the interest of the community
convention no 105 1957 abolition of forced labour convention
Convention No.105 (1957)Abolition of Forced Labour Convention

Forced labour can never be used as a:

  • means of political coercion or education
  • method for mobilizing labour for purposes of economic development
  • means of labour discipline or punishment for participation in strikes
  • means of racial, social, national or religious discrimination
debt bondage
Debt bondage

Defined in the UN Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery….1956, as:

« the status….arising from the from a pledge by a debtor of his personal services or of those of a person under his control as security for a debt, if the value of those services as reasonably assessed is not applied towards the liquidation of the debt or the length and nature of those services are not respectively limited and defined » Art. 1 (a)

worst forms of child labour convention no 182 1999
Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (No.182), 1999


« all forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery, such as the sale and trafficking of children, debt bondage and serfdom and forced or compulsory labour, including forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict »

trafficking in persons
Trafficking in persons

“ the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation

….shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs”

Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons (2000), Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized CrimeArt. 3(a)

main categories of forced labour
Main categories of forced labour
  • State-imposed FL includes situations such as the FL imposed by the military (e.g Burma/Myanmar), compulsory participation in public or community works (some cases in Africa), or forced prison labour (both in developing and industrialised countries).
  • FL exacted by private individuals, entities or companies (the majority) includes forced commercial sexual exploitation as well as forced economic exploitation in different sectors: incl. agriculture and forestry, domestic service, small-scale manufacturing/sweat shops, construction, mining etc. Can be trafficked or non-trafficked. Mostly in the rural and informal economy
what is not necessarily forced labour
What is not (necessarily) forced labour?
  • Super-exploitation, long hours, low pay…
  • Very bad or hazardous working conditions
  • Non-payment or delayed payment of wages
  • Lack of job alternatives, so person is « forced » to work in order to survive (solely economic coercion)

These may be indicators of possible forced labour, but do not alone and necessarily prove its existence

Key question: « Can you, in theory at least, walk away from this work? »

some challenges in tackling forced labour
Some challenges in tackling forced labour
  • Generating political will to acknowledge and attack the problem
  • Creating public awareness that it exists and a public demand to fight it
  • Understanding and measuring forced labour
  • Getting the right law and policies in place
  • Identifying and freeing forced labourers (men, women, children)
  • Building capacity to address FL in government, law enforcement, judiciary, workers’ and employers’ organisations, NGOs and strengthening coordination
  • Having viable and sustainable alternatives in place
  • Prevention is better than cure…
what the ilo does
What the ILO does
  • Standards supervision
  • Law and policy advice to governments
  • Research, awareness-raising and advocacy
  • Capacity-building esp. with ILO constituents
  • Field-based activities for prevention of FL/trafficking, and identification, release and rehabilitation of victims (working with local partners)
  • Documentation and development of practical tools and training materials
examples of project activities
Examples of project activities

Brazil: abolition of « slave labour »

China: reform of RETL and trafficking issues

South Asia: preventing and eliminating bonded labour

W. Africa: combating internal and external trafficking

SE Asia: preventing exploitation of migrant domestic workers

Europe and C. Asia: anti-trafficking, regulation of recruitment agencies

Bolivia: stopping FL in Amazon region and plantation agriculture