Forced Labor


American Civilization

University of Idaho

Question Description

Complete the following interactive survey:

Read the attached article. Then answer the following.

Now that you are familiar with these subjects, use the following question prompts as a basis for the discussion. Be sure to clearly state how the past and contemporary issues are connected and address as many of the prompts as you can in your response. The length of your posts will vary depending on the topic, but as a general rule will be measured by your ability to articulate the connection. As you discuss with your peers feel free to ask your own questions and express your own ideas, just be sure to use examples, relevant facts and cite your sources.

  1. How might slave labor and forced labor help sustain your standard of living as well as that of other more economically advanced nations?
  2. How did the British government and the British population inside the colonies and in England benefit from this forced labor system?

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Forced Labor in Malaysia: 2014 Study Introduction Malaysia’s electronics sector workforce includes hundreds of thousands of foreign migrant workers who come to Malaysia on the promise of a good salary and steady work – an opportunity to make a better life for themselves and their families. But many are subject to high recruitment fees, personal debt, complicated recruitment processes, lack of transparency about their eventual working conditions, and inadequate legal protections. Unscrupulous behavior on the part of employers or third-party employment agents can exacerbate vulnerability to exploitation, but the system in which foreign workers are recruited, placed and managed is complex enough to create vulnerability even in the absence of willful intent to exploit. The conditions faced by foreign electronics workers in Malaysia have the potential to result in forced labor. In 2012, Verité received funding from the US Department of Labor to conduct a study to determine whether such forced labor does, in fact, exist in the production of electronic goods in Malaysia. Summary of Main Findings: Forced labor is present in the Malaysian electronics industry. Twenty-eight percent of all workers in the study sample were found to be in situations of forced labor. The rate of forced labor among only foreign workers was higher, at 32%, or nearly one in every three foreign workers. As mentioned above, this finding is based on conservative measures and should be understood as a minimum estimate of the problem. Forced labor was found in the study sample in significant numbers across all major producing regions, electronics products, foreign worker nationalities, and among both female and male workers. These results suggest that forced labor is present in the Malaysian electronics industry in more than isolated incidents, and can indeed be characterized as widespread. The key factors that contributed to forced labor conditions for the workers interviewed by Verité. Forced labor is linked to recruitment fee charging and the indebtedness that follows. Recruitment fee charging of foreign workers was found to be pervasive in the study sample, and fees were often excessive. Ninety-two percent of all foreign workers surveyed paid recruitment fees in order to get their jobs. The recruitment fees that workers paid for their jobs often exceeded legal and industry standards equivalent to one month’s wage. Of workers reporting recruitment fees paid to employment agents in their home countries, 92% were excessive. Of respondents reporting fees paid to their employment agent in Malaysia, 99% reported excessive levels. Worker indebtedness was strongly linked to excessive recruitment fees charged to workers in their home countries and in Malaysia. Seventy-seven percent of workers who were charged fees had to borrow in order to pay them. Workers who had to borrow money to pay recruitment fees reported paying higher fees, on average, than workers who did not have to borrow. This suggests that higher fees mean a higher likelihood of indebtedness for workers. When workers took on debt to pay for fees, this debt represented a significant and ongoing burden during their stay in Malaysia: 95% of workers who borrowed money to pay recruitment fees took longer than three months to pay off the debt, and 50% took longer than a year. When one considers that the typical work contract for a foreign worker is two years in duration (with the option of a third year extension), this means 50% of workers were paying off recruitment debt for at least half of their first work contract. Recruitment-related debt compelled workers to work. Of respondents that had not yet paid off their debt, 92% reported feeling compelled to work overtime hours to pay off their debt, and 85% felt it was impossible to leave their job before paying off their debt. The rate of forced labor was higher among currently indebted workers (48%) than it was in the general respondent pool (28%). This finding lends credence to the notion that excessive fee charging and the debt that follows increases vulnerability to forced labor: Workers in this study who were charged higher recruitment fees were more likely to borrow, and, in turn, were more vulnerable to forced labor. Forced labor is also linked to deceptive recruitment: One in five workers in the study was misled in the recruitment phase about the terms of their employment agreement. Twenty-two percent of foreign workers were deceived about their wages, hours, overtime requirements or pay, provisions regarding termination of employment, or the nature or degree of difficulty or danger of their jobs. These workers had little ability to change or refuse their jobs upon arrival. Passport retention, which is prohibited by law in Malaysia, was widely experienced by workers in the study. Ninety-four percent of foreign workers in the sample reported that their passports were held by the facility or their broker/agent, and 71% reported it was impossible or difficult to get their passports back when they wanted or needed them. Foreign workers interviewed by Verité were highly constrained in their freedom of movement. Passport retention was a strong contributing factor. Sixty-two percent, or nearly two thirds of all foreign workers interviewed, reported that they were unable to move around freely and safely without their passports or other travel documents. Thirty-five percent of workers reported needing a pass or permit to go beyond a certain distance from their housing. Many foreign workers in the study experienced poor living conditions, in housing provided by employers or third-party employment agents. Thirty percent of foreign workers slept in a room with more than eight people, 43% of foreign workers said that there was nowhere they could safely store their belongings, and 22% of foreign workers said that they did not feel safe in their housing. It was difficult for foreign workers surveyed by Verité to leave before the end of their work contracts. Fifty-seven percent of foreign worker respondents reported they could not leave their job before their contract was finished because they would either be charged an illegally high fine, would forfeit wages or runaway insurance, would be forced to pay the balance of the levy, would lose their passport, or would be denounced to the authorities. Once on the job in Malaysia, 88% of foreign workers said they did not have the option to insist on a different job arrangement, and 92% said they did not have the option of refusing their job arrangement and returning home with job procurement costs refunded. ...
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