Migrant workers in Thailand suffer debt bondage and other exploitation at the hands of the country’s export-driven poultry industry, a report by European rights groups said.
Excessive fees for recruitment, paperwork and social service are routinely deducted from wages, pushing workers further into debt they sometimes cannot repay, according to research by Swedwatch and Finnwatch.
“After the deduction for documents and renewal processes from my 15 day salary, I have nothing left. How can I eat and survive?” the report quoted a Myanmar worker as saying.
The perpetuation of debt amounts to a form of forced labour, the report said.
The report did say that the workers interviewed were paid the minimum wage of 300 baht (8.4 US dollars) per day on paper, but the deductions were excessive and sometimes lacked credibility.
One worker said that she had been paying social security for years but still had no coverage.
Workers from all the factories reviewed said passports or work permits were held by the employers or recruiters, and circulating without papers exposed them to abuse and extortion from officials.
Workers arrive in Thailand with a debt to their broker, the report said. Workers from Myanmar can pay up to 650,000 kyat (500 dollars) for the trip and the introduction to an employer.
“We cannot go back home, but neither can we stand to work here,” said another Myanmar worker in the report, which interviewed 98 migrant workers in six factories.
Thailand is the world’s fourth-largest poultry meat exporter, supplying three-quarters of its exported processed chicken to Japan and the European Union.
Thai industry as a whole relies heavily on migrant workers, amid a labour shortage and an ageing population. The country has 1.3 million registered migrant workers, and up to 3 million if undocumented or illegal workers are included.
Since 2014, several reports have slammed migrants’ working conditions in Thailand’s fishing and fruit-processing industries.
The reports prompted the European Union to warn that it could ban seafood products from Thailand, the world’s third-largest seafood exporter.
The United States said Thursday it will review Thailand’s right to export some goods there without import duties, amid the concerns over working conditions.