Fighting forced labour

Question and answers on Work In Freedom programme

The 5-year joint DFID/ILO programme aims to prevent over 100,000 girls and women from South Asia from falling victim to child and labour trafficking.

Analísis | 15 de julio de 2013

1. What is the Work in Freedom programme?

This groundbreaking programme is a joint initiative from the UK Department for International Development (DFID), the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM).

It aims to help prevent the trafficking of women and girls from South Asia (India, Nepal and Bangladesh) to countries popular with migrants, (India, UAE, Jordan and Lebanon). The programme focuses on the domestic work and garment sectors – the most prevalent areas of trafficking.

The programme will work with governments, employers and worker organizations, civil society organizations and international agencies to ensure ethical recruitment of migrant women and help eliminate unacceptable forms of work.

As the main beneficiaries, women will have a strong voice in what the programme does, how it is delivered, and will be critical to lesson-learning and influencing policy recommendations.

2. What does the programme hope to achieve?

The programme aims to prevent over 100,000 girls and women across South Asia from falling victim to child and labour trafficking. The key aims include:
  • Safe and successful labour migration of women workers with legal protection from harm and coercion, and reducing the risks of trafficking before migration takes place.
  • Private sector companies and employers use ethical standards of recruitment and fair employment practices. This includes at least 100 agencies signing up to a kite mark of fair practices – requiring employers, rather than workers, to pay recruitment fees. This will benefit thousands of migrant women.
  • Economic empowerment of about 30,000 migrant women workers from South Asia, allowing them to have control over their income and working conditions, send regular remittances home to their families and save their earnings.
  • Skills, pre-departure training and other services provided for about 50,000 migrant workers to help them secure a legal contract and decent wage.
  • Prevention of child labour and migration for girls under 16 years to help ensure they attend school, gain skills and have the chance to secure decent work.
  • Developing a robust evidence base on what works to prevent trafficking.


3. What is the difference between forced labour and trafficking?

There is a significant overlap between the definitions of human trafficking and forced labour. Both include slavery and slavery-like practices, debt bondage, serfdom and servitude. Forced labour uses threats and coercion, whereas the international definition of human trafficking includes a wider range of indicators that include abuse and exploitation.

Most forced labour fits within the UN Protocol definition of human trafficking, which results in forced labour or sexual exploitation.

4. Why focus on forced labour in domestic work and the garment sector?

The ILO estimates that 90 per cent of forced labour today occurs in the ‘private economy’.

Domestic work and the garment sector are two sectors that employ a high proportion of women and girls from South Asia. In all parts of the world, domestic workers are at an increased risk of trafficking because of the unprotected nature of their work. Victims are often abused physically, psychologically and sexually by employers and agents.They tend to be dependent on their employers, work long hours and frequently live in isolated private homes. Private households are usually excluded from labour market regulations and labour inspections.

The garment industry has been subject to allegations of severe forms of labour abuse, including forced overtime and low wages. In emerging economies where cheap labour is vital to ensure the competitiveness of businesses, employers may feel pressure to compromise the wages and working conditions of workers.

This programme focuses on the worst forms of abuse of migrant workers involving threat and coercion, such as withholding payment of wages, restricting freedom of movement and association, physical and sexual abuse.

5. How will you measure whether the programme is having an impact?

This programme has been carefully designed so that there is strong baseline data in order to track and review specific and measurable results throughout its five year lifecycle. It will review progress mid-way during the programme and adapt it where necessary to ensure it achieves the expected outcomes and impacts.

Results and interventions to be measured by The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) include:
  • The extent to which current and returned women migrant workers are satisfied with their working terms and conditions.
  • The number of migrant workers who benefit from information, training and support before they depart as well in their destination countries.
  • The benefits of vocational training on contracts, wages and protection of migrant workers
  • The number of girls remaining in full time education instead of migrating.
  • Attitudes and behaviours of employers – how and whether they change as a result of the programme.
  • Increases in the number of recruitment agencies that sign and implement codes of conduct based on CIETT standards, including the no fee charging policy.
  • Increased awareness of labour officials and law enforcement officers that enables them to better respond to labour trafficking cases.

6. What can the UK public / consumers do to help end trafficking and forced labour?

    • Join campaigns for greater standards and compliance from business to ensure that workers anywhere are protected from unacceptable forms of work, and can choose employment in conditions of freedom and dignity.
    • Be discerning consumers by supporting companies that engage in ethical recruitment and abide by international standards of work practices. They can demand that their favourite products should be free from forced labour and trafficking.
    • Be aware of how to identify cases of forced labour and trafficking, and alert the police if they come across a suspected case.
  • Support the End Slavery Now! campaign