Information and stories on Labor category

5 Fairtrade Products You Should Switch to Right NowFairtrade products are certain items that consumers can buy that comes with a certified seal. This seal ensures that the product was manufactured under quality working conditions, a safe environment and protected human rights. In 2017, 50% of the global population didn’t grow in wealth while the top 1% doubled their wealth. Fairtrade products are a way to ensure that money doesn’t go entirely to corporations and workers can make a liveable wage off of their work. Fairtrade products are often only a few cents more; yet, they can make all the difference when consumers choose to switch to fairtrade products.

Fairtrade During the Pandemic

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Fairtrade partnered with other companies to provide a COVID-19 relief fund. Within two years the partnerships pledged to provide €15 million to Fairtrade’s Producer Relief and Resilience Funds. The money spent on Fairtrade products not only goes to the livelihood of the workers but also helps prevent the spread of COVID-19. The funds will also help small businesses get back on their feet. This will aid with short and long-term relief to Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Most workers make $2 a day for their labor. Buying Fairtrade products will help people across the globe create a sustainable life for themselves. Here are some common products that consumers can buy under Fairtrade:

  1. Chocolate: Coca is one of the most detrimental products to produce with one of the most corrupt industries. Coca often causes “poverty, deforestation, gender inequality, child labor and forced labor.” By choosing to buy brands of Fair Trade chocolate such as Divine Chocolate, consumers will be helping workers obtain a liveable income, better relationships with the companies, receive COVID-19 relief aid and maintain a higher minimum price to protect them from price drops.
  2. Wine: There are more than 50 vineyards that provide Fairtrade wines from Argentina to South Africa. By choosing wines such as Don David Malbec, Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Azana White Blend, Co-op Irresistible Sauvignon Blanc and Cape Original Moscato Rosé, small-scale farmers are able to “join independent trade unions and enter into collective agreements with vineyard owners.” With this, they are able to “invest in social, economic and environmental improvements.” With wine, in particular, Fairtrade also protects the workers against “toxic agrochemicals” that farmers sometimes spray in vineyards.
  3. Coffee: Coffee, along with wine, is a heavily used product. Fairtrade offers coffee farmers trade with a minimum price, terms of trade and Fairtrade Premium. Fairtrade Premium allots the workers with extra money on top of the original price to help their communities. Some of the Fairtrade coffee brands include Cafédirect, Equal Exchange and Higher Ground Roasters. Starbuck also provides Fairtrade products.
  4. Ice Cream: There are many Fairtrade ice cream brands, and many consumers are already eating them. Ben and Jerry’s focuses its business around fair trade products. The company uses all fair trade ingredients, which mostly include cocoa and coffee. Their contribution to fair trade provided coca farmers with $1.5 million in premiums. Using the premiums, farmers can improve their agricultural approves and built their community. Fairtrade also states that since its 2010 partnership with Ben and Jerry’s, the “premium funds have benefitted more than 1,400 farmers and their families through the construction of a medical center, libraries, schools and the production of 400 tons of compost!”
  5. Cotton: Almost 26 million tons of cotton are harvested every year, yet the cost of cotton remains low. Cotton causes many environmental issues such as the use of agrochemicals, water use and polluted water. This causes many of the cotton producers to put their fresh water at risk. By buying Fairtrade cotton, consumers can protect the cotton industry’s health and safety. Fairtrade also focuses on “unsafe and unfair labor conditions in cotton processing and textile factories.”

These five products are just a few of the Fairtrade products available. A way to know which products to buy is to look for the Fairtrade seal on the product, which is black with a green and blue figure labeled “Fairtrade.” These products are endorsed by Fairtrade America and more products such as bananas, flowers, sugar, tea, honey and vegetables are provided in Fairtrade. With fair trade products that promote sustainable products as well as sustainable living, agricultural workers can improve their living conditions and wages, and ultimately rise out of poverty.

– Maddie Rhodes
Photo: Flickr

Developed nations are witnessing a steep decline in labor union participation. Labor unions are organized groups of workers who negotiate decisions concerning their working conditions. From 1985 to 2017, union membership declined by 13%. Several factors have contributed to this decline, however, labor unions are important as they play a role in reducing poverty across the world.

The Decline in Labor Unions

The recent trend toward globalization has admittedly fostered business competitiveness. However, this threatens labor unions due to the belief that unionization can harm a company’s ability to compete internationally. This belief stems from the strong negotiating power of unions, forcing companies to pay and treat their workers well, which many international companies do not have to do. In addition, organizational and technological changes have threatened union longevity. The final contributing factor is the decline of the manufacturing sector, a sector that is more likely to support unionization than other industries.

Along with the organizational factors contributing to the decrease in labor unions, the societal understanding of the value of labor unions is also decreasing. In part due to mass propaganda campaigns and anti-labor advertising unleashed by businesses in the last three decades, there is a growing sentiment that these organizations are no longer useful or necessary. This sentiment poses a direct threat to workers throughout the world as these organizations play an important role in poverty reduction.

Decrease in Economic Inequality

Labor unions play an important role in decreasing economic inequality. Unions provide people with the power to negotiate, which in turn, strengthens the middle class and increases salaries for blue-collar workers. Unions give power to people in lower positions in companies so they can negotiate and work for better wages. Unionized workers are typically able to raise their wages by 20% through negotiation.

White-collar workers do not reap the same benefits and labor unions play an important role in stopping runaway incomes for people at the top. This gives power to the middle class and reduces the power of the top 1%. Not only do higher wages for blue-collar workers support the workers themselves but they also boost economic mobility for future generations. By empowering workers to collectively bargain for higher wages, labor unions have played a vital role in the rise of the middle class.

Healthcare

Because members of labor unions can negotiate better benefits, they are 30% more likely to have healthcare benefits than non-union workers. Additionally, these healthcare benefits are typically higher quality than baseline coverage. On average, unionized workers are more likely to have health plans, including dental and vision care. Quality health insurance plays an important role in reducing the risk of poverty. The CDC finds that workers who possess and utilize health plans are more productive. Increased productivity among workers provides a foundation for educational and workplace success.

Along with increasing productivity, quality healthcare can reduce the risk of medical debt-induced poverty. Medical coverage for working adults can also cover the worker’s children. This is important as children who have medical coverage are less likely to develop chronic health conditions. Through family care, labor unions provide workers and their families the resources necessary to remain in good health, achieve success and protect their futures.

Work-Life Balance

Labor unions provide workers with the chance to negotiate better working conditions, including more paid time off. Unionized workers have 26.6% more vacation time on average than non-unionized workers. This time off is important for a work-life balance, overall longevity and family time. Children who spend quality time with their parents are more likely to be physically healthy and are less likely to partake in risky behaviors such as drug and alcohol abuse. Furthermore, these children are more likely to stay in school and achieve academic success, helping them secure well-paying jobs in the future. By supporting a work-life balance, labor unions ensure that households have a pathway out of poverty.

In these ways, labor unions play a vital role in reducing poverty. By increasing wages, strengthening the middle class, providing healthcare access and facilitating quality family time, labor unions can help people break cycles of poverty.

– Haylee Ann Ramsey-Code
Photo: Flickr

Self-Employed Women in IndiaIn early April 2021, India experienced a surge of COVID-19 cases that has left devastating impacts on the economy. According to ReliefWeb, on May 19, 2021, “India set a global record of 4,529 COVID-19 deaths in 24 hours.” The economic consequences of COVID-19 disproportionately impact vulnerable populations such as self-employed women in India. On June 10, 2021, in a desperate call for help, the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) expressed to the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security the financial hardship that its members are facing.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Informal Workers

The COVID-19 pandemic has been harmful to the entire Indian economy, but female informal workers are bearing the brunt of it. These workers rely on public transportation to commute to work, such as buses and trains, but these modes of transport were shut down during the pandemic. Additionally, many self-employed workers are street vendors, a form of work that has also been barred. The May 2021 Cyclone Tauktae in Gujarat, India, exacerbated all these issues. About 8,000 female workers “in the salt farming industry lost the opportunity to sell 600-700 tons of harvested salt because it was swept away when Cyclone Tauktae struck.”

Due to these compounded issues, already impoverished women are unable to work, a consequence that comes with serious financial repercussions. SEWA surveyed many members who must now cut back on their food consumption and medicinal needs because they simply cannot afford it. These are issues that members of SEWA face along with most other self-employed workers across India.

However, the situation is particularly difficult for female workers due to a long-standing culture of gender bias in India. Women are far more likely to have lower-paying and less secure jobs than men. When India first started recovering from the pandemic in late 2020, the return to employment of males took first priority. Thus, self-employed women in India experience a disproportionate rate of pandemic-induced poverty in comparison to their male counterparts.

SEWA Takes Action

According to SEWA leaders, India is grappling with widespread misinformation and fear surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccines, especially in the rural regions of India. Currently, the organization is taking four main steps to combat COVID-19 in India:

  1. Encouraging people with symptoms to test for COVID-19.
  2. Urging community members to wear masks and educating people on other public health guidelines.
  3. Advocating for COVID-19 vaccination by building community trust.
  4. Prioritizing emergency support to women whose livelihoods took a hit due to “COVID-19 restrictions and the destruction of Cyclone Tauktae.”

In late June and early July 2021, SEWA distributed 1.2 million masks in urban regions and 1.5 million masks in rural regions of India. SEWA aims to provide “health kits, food packets, medicine and financial relief to workers who have lost all sources of income as a result of lockdowns or natural disaster.” Further, SEWA is transforming its offices into temporary “COVID-19 patient care centers” to ease the strain on India’s healthcare system.

One major success for women in India overall is the election of Mamata Banerjee as the chief minister of the West Bengal state government. Banerjee’s commitments “include 250 welfare programs,” many of which will support women and mothers specifically. For instance, Banerjee will mobilize “conditional cash transfers to mothers for their daughters’ education.”

A Call for Action

In order to provide ongoing assistance to self-employed women in India, SEWA requires national and international support. SEWA appeals for support in the form of donations of masks, sanitizers, personal protective equipment and medical supplies as well as monetary donations.

SEWA also welcomes support for the alternative markets that have risen in popularity during the pandemic, such as making face masks, producing sanitizer and selling pre-packaged meals for deliveries. The World Economic Forum puts forth further suggestions, such as providing digital tools and training to help informal workers succeed in changing times. For example, “connecting farmers with consumers of their vegetables in local cities via WhatsApp.”

With support from organizations and the public, during unprecedented times like these, self-employed women in India will be able to rise out of poverty with the ability to thrive and not simply just survive.

Jessica Li
Photo: Flickr

child poverty in PeruLife in Peru is rich in indigenous culture and beautiful landmarks such as Machu Picchu, Cusco and the Amazon jungle. Livelihoods in Peru take different forms as people from the countryside live in more traditional means, partly because of their Quechua origins and the location in which they reside. In the working world of Peru, children often work beside adults. However, the prevalence of child labor means that child poverty in Peru is also prevalent.

Rural Children in Peru

The significantly mountainous geography of Peru affects how citizens travel and exert energy to accomplish daily tasks. The land in Peru creates a large gap between urban and rural lifestyles. For a person who lives in rural land, it is normal for whole families to provide for each other because it is the most efficient means for survival.

Everyone plays a part, including the children, who have obligations to the rural Peruvian household. Project Peru states that approximately “28.6% of children between the ages of 6-17 already receive wages or are paid in kind.” Fulfilling duties to support the household is not uncommon. Earning an income while trying to balance schooling is a norm for many Peruvian children. Yet, prioritizing income over education only serves to exacerbate child poverty in Peru since education is a proven tool for breaking cycles of poverty.

Children Providing for the Household

Roughly 90% of Peruvian children work in informal job sectors. These jobs are often unregulated, putting children at risk of exploitation and dangerous working conditions. Some of these children work more than 45 hours per week — more than an average adult’s work schedule in the United States. The informal sectors contribute to 73% of the economy’s labor.

In the same instance, child labor usage significantly benefits unregulated, informal businesses, and as such, employers consider children to be assets. Hence, child poverty in Peru is commonly present because informal sectors take advantage of underprivileged rural children, often underpaying, overworking and exploiting these children.

An April 2008 study by Alan Sanchez shows that almost one in every two Peruvians lives in poverty. Meanwhile, 60% of Peruvian children live in poverty. Urban children do not experience the same hardships because they often do not need to provide extensive income for the household through child labor. For children from the countryside, however, life is vastly different.

The prevalence of child labor links to high rates of poverty and minimal opportunities for well-paying, secure employment that can provide enough monetary support for the whole household. In addition, a lack of social support from the government means families struggle to meet their basic needs without the economic assistance of their children.

The United States Intervenes

In response to the high rates of child poverty in Peru, in July 2012, the U.S. donated $13 million to Peru to reduce the usage of child labor. The donation helped make educational resources more available for rural children. The pilot program created by Peru had plans to support rural families to increase their income without relying on the employment of a child in the household. The director of the project, Maro Guerrero, said Peru is not against children working. However, children’s work should not interfere with their education and well-being. The pilot program was expected to yield positive results, however, there is little data available on the official achievements of the program.

“Free of Child Labor” Certification

In 2019, the government of Peru partnered with an NGO “to create a new label to certify family businesses” as “free of child labor.” This effort serves to help eradicate child labor in Peru. In 2019, roughly “1,500 small producers” were “preparing to be evaluated and due to obtain certification by 2020.” María Gloria Barreiro, director of the Development and Self-Management NGO, states that “It’s not about children not helping at home, it’s about drawing that line that divides help at home, training and learning activities and what constitutes a danger.”

The Peruvian government hopes that these child labor-free certified products will sell at a higher price, as with organic goods, improving the income of impoverished Peruvians. Barreiro emphasizes that to truly eradicate child labor, the certification must exist alongside social initiatives “to improve the economic situation of small producers and ensure their children have access to education.”

With efforts from governments and organizations that aim to reduce child poverty in Peru, hope is on the horizon for the impoverished children of Peru.

– Trever Lloyd
Photo: Flickr

impoverished in El SalvadorEl Salvador implemented a strong response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, it has one of the lowest rates of COVID-19 contractions in Central America. Still, there have been several economic depressions globally during this pandemic that have affected the impoverished in El Salvador.

The COVID-19 Pandemic

As of July 23, 2021, El Salvador has had 84,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 2,500 deaths. On April 1, 2020, President Nayib Bukele confirmed the first COVID-related death over Twitter. The victim was a 60-year-old woman who had recently returned from the United States.

This lockdown has had major ramifications for the impoverished in El Salvador. In an interview with The Borgen Project, San Salvador resident Wendy Michelle Valladares-Hernandez discussed the economic implications for the poor. “I think [the pandemic] has affected…people with entry-level [salaries] which is the majority of El Salvador,” she said. “Entry-level salaries are $300 and things can be as expensive as the U.S. so it’s like telling someone in the U.S. to live with $300 a month. It can be a lot cheaper, like housing but when it comes to food it’s very similar [to] the States.”

Despite this, Valladares-Hernandez described the pandemic procedures positively. “I think that as a country we responded very well,” she said. “The fact that we are all trying to help each other in the sense that we, you know, take care of ourselves, to take care of everyone else around us. I think that’s the reason everyone wears masks when they go out and everyone’s okay by having your temperature checked every single place you go in and cleaning yourself with alcohol every single time you go in.”

El Salvador’s Economy

The U.N. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) estimates that the Salvadoran economy contracted 8.6% in 2020, compared to an expansion of 2.6% in 2019. The country has not seen such a loss since 1981 during a civil war. Additionally, El Salvador was the first country to introduce Bitcoin as legal tender. While it is a notable milestone, there are uncertain benefits for the impoverished in El Salvador. The country has a mostly cash-based economy and more than 70% of its citizens do not have bank accounts. It has sparked protests and a poll found that 77% of Salvadorans think Bitcoin is a poor idea.

El Salvador’s Healthcare Services

The organization Doctors Without Borders has recorded an increase in patients dying before ambulances reach their homes. The COVID-19 pandemic has overloaded the ambulance and hospital systems and there is a lack of access to primary healthcare services. Many patients with chronic illnesses do not have full access to medical assistance because coronavirus patients have received medicinal priority.

This has especially affected the impoverished in El Salvador. The U.S. embassy in El Salvador has found that the use of state-of-the-art technology can require medical evacuation to the United States, but even general hospitalization can cost thousands of dollars, often in cash payments. This leaves medical assistance often unaffordable to many, considering the country’s minimum wage is around $270 per month.

The Solutions

El Salvador’s government has already approved a minimum wage increase that went into effect on August 1, 2021. The minimum wage increased by 20%, bringing the entry-level wage from $300 to $365 a month per month. On top of that, the government has announced the Trust for the Economic Recovery of Companies. This Trust has offered to provide $100 million towards small- and medium-scale businesses to subsidize wages and promote the economy. The ECLAC has estimated that El Salvador will see economic growth of 3.5% in 2021 due to private and public investment.

Bukele, in response to the overwhelmed healthcare system, converted the International Center for Fairs and Conventions (CIFCO) into a hospital designed specifically for COVID-19 treatment. The hospital is now the largest hospital in Central America, costing more than $75 million to produce. Originally, the transformed center was to be temporary, however, it will now be a permanent fixture.

The hospital has the capacity to treat more than 400 individuals with COVID-19. The economy hit those who are impoverished in El Salvador hard. Additionally, they often cannot afford to pay or seek medical assistance. The Ministry of Health (MSPAS) offers a free public healthcare system that covers up to 79.5% of Salvadorans in their time of need.

Looking Forward

On July 21, 2021, Bradley A. Freden, the Interim Permanent Representative of the United States, attended an OAS Permanent Council Special Session on equitable COVID-19 vaccine distribution. There, he reiterated President Joe Biden’s announcement to contribute $2 billion in support of COVAX. Soon, 24 million vaccinations will undergo distribution across the Western Hemisphere, including to El Salvador. This contribution will greatly help the vaccination goals of El Salvador, which should be able to vaccinate 4.5 million citizens.

“Importantly, our shots don’t come with strings attached,” said Freden. “We are sharing vaccines with the world and leading in a global vaccine strategy because it’s the right thing to do: the right thing morally, the right thing from a global public health perspective and the right thing for our collective security and well-being.”

Citizens of El Salvador look forward to returning to normal, though some believe that those who are sick should continue to use masks. Valladares-Hernandez remarked, “I think that there’s gonna be things that are gonna get stuck with us. For example, even if someone has a small flu, people are still going to be wearing masks. I think that’s something we are going to do once this goes away.”

– Camdyn Knox
Photo: Pixabay

3 Groups Creating Jobs in Underdeveloped CountriesPoor infrastructure and lack of job opportunities are among the top reasons that underdeveloped countries remain in poverty. Creating jobs in underdeveloped countries is key to achieving developmental goals and providing economic and political stability that can help many developing countries out of destitution. Furthermore, jobs provide income, independence and choice to individuals. It is for these reasons that creating jobs in underdeveloped countries can improve conditions and help in eliminating hunger and poverty. Creating new job opportunities can also help advance gender equality and many other pending societal issues.  In September 2015, many organizations came together to establish the U.N. 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which recognized the importance and impact of jobs on these economies. Since then, corporations and organizations have been launching efforts to try and reduce global poverty by creating more jobs in developing countries.

3 Groups Creating Jobs in Underdeveloped Countries

  1. The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC): This U.S.-based finance development organization has long created jobs in underdeveloped countries that have boosted countries’ economies. OPIC has supported major infrastructure projects such as airports and hospitals, which have created many construction jobs. It also has provided and allocated financial resources to entrepreneurs in developing countries. These resources give entrepreneurs the means to start and grow their businesses, which will, in turn, produce more jobs. In 2019, OPIC merged with the Development Credit Authority, which was a part of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), to form the Development Finance Corporation (DFC). The DFC partners with the private sector to invest in energy, healthcare and technology initiatives, as well as infrastructure and jobs.
  2. The World Bank: The international organization works to reach goals in the employment sector by launching efforts to improve financial access, provide financial training and build more robust infrastructures for lacking governments. Due to the World Bank’s international efforts, countries are recognizing the top challenges they face using job diagnostics. After evaluating data, governments can focus on more pressing socioeconomic issues. This will create jobs that benefit people in need and give them more economic stability. The World Bank counsels governments to invest in transportation, information and communications to connect more people to job markets. Finally, the World Bank is responsible for developing programs that promote entrepreneurship in small-and-medium-sized businesses.
  3. Mother’s Service Society (MSS): Founded in 1970, MSS is a social science research institute in Pondicherry, India, that leads research and conferences on subjects from global leadership to economic theory. MSS research projects and conferences develop action plans to increase employment and create jobs in developing nations. These plans detail multiple factors that, when combined, generate employment and boost the economies of these countries. According to MSS, the Newly Industrializing Economies (NIEs) in East Asia have demonstrated that more comprehensive strategies for job generation have yielded the most progress. More comprehensive strategies for job generation can include ideas such as having more of an emphasis on agriculture, promoting small businesses, improve marketing efforts, develop exports and employment planning.

More Strategies

Besides the great work of these groups, other comprehensive strategies for creating jobs in underdeveloped countries include extending basic education, improving higher education, raising productivity and upgrading the skill level of workers. By implementing these strategies, economies can close socioeconomic gaps, join the global market and create more job opportunities.

– Annamarie Perez
Photo: Flickr 

Human Trafficking in BruneiAccording to the 2018 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, there were more than 50,000 cases of human trafficking reported in 148 countries. The report suggests that human traffickers prey mostly on women, children, migrants and unemployed people. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is no surprise that the United Nations fears that the number of human trafficking victims will increase. In 2020, 114 million people lost their jobs and children had to stay home. The Business and Human Rights Resource Center has emphasized the vulnerability of those low down in the supply chain, particularly those working in countries that had failed to meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking in the past. Human trafficking in Brunei is on the rise, prompting action from the government and organizations.

Migrant Workers in Brunei

Wealthy in natural gas and oil, Brunei houses more than 100,000 foreign workers who come in search of low-skill jobs. However, many migrant workers have fallen victim to human trafficking in Brunei. Employers withhold their wages, switch their labor contracts, confiscate their passports or confine them into involuntary servitude through physical abuse. Traffickers mostly take advantage of foreign workers’ illiteracy and lack of knowledge of local labor laws. Debt-based coercion and the withholding of salaries is also a frequent experience for domestic workers. The U.S. Department of State 2020 Report suggests traffickers from Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand use Brunei to transit sex slaves.

Vulnerable Women and Children

With one-third of human trafficking victims in East Asia being women, traffickers force thousands of women and girls into prostitution. Thousands of children who are trafficked in Brunei each year experience domestic servitude or sexual exploitation, according to the 2020 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons. However, according to the United Nations, there was an influx in cyber trafficking, making the industry worth $8 billion by the end of 2020. During lockdown in Brunei, traffickers often live-streamed sexual abuse of children on social media. Furthermore, thousands of victims experience deportation or receive convictions for crimes without investigation into whether they were trafficking victims.

Brunei’s Efforts to Combat Human Trafficking

Despite passing an Anti-Trafficking in Persons Order in 2019, which differentiates migrant smuggling and human trafficking crimes, Brunei’s government failed to prosecute or convict any traffickers between 2017 and 2021. The last conviction for human trafficking in Brunei was in 2016. The government has also failed to allocate any resources to victims or the repatriation fund upheld in the Order.

This comes after Brunei demonstrated efforts to diminish human trafficking by ratifying the ASEAN Convention Against Trafficking in Persons (ACTIP) in January 2020. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) created the Convention to affirm its commitment to prevent and combat human trafficking by establishing a legal framework for regional action. As it ratified the Convention, Brunei is responsible for implementing domestic laws to enforce the ACTIP at the local level. However, Brunei’s government has not introduced or amended any laws since the ratification.

Attempting to demonstrate that efforts to stop trafficking are active, Brunei has carried awareness campaigns for employers of foreign workers. These materials are in both English and Malay. In 2020, Brunei’s labor department distributed business cards containing its hotline for reporting violations in more than 500 factories and plants. Nonetheless, Brunei employers withholding wages and confiscating migrant workers’ documentation remain common practices. No improvements received recognition in Brunei’s 2020 Trafficking in Persons Report in comparison to the previous year.

Outside Recommendations

As the United States Department of State suggested in its 2020 report, to effectively tackle human trafficking in Brunei, it is necessary that the government not only increases efforts to investigate and convict traffickers but that it also allocates funds to protect and shelter victims. Brunei must also ensure labor contracts are in the employees’ native language and that workers can retain a copy of their contract and documentation.

Furthermore, the government should direct awareness campaigns at both employers and employees so they are aware of their rights. Campaigns must be available in different languages, particularly those that are common among migrants such as Indonesian, Thai and Filipino. The government must also offer nondiscriminatory essential services to victims of trafficking to protect people regardless of their nationality.

To prevent traffickers from targeting children, teachers must receive training so they can identify and report cases of suspected abuse. It is also important for children to obtain education about their rights and the dangers of social media. This can stop cyber trafficking from taking place. To combat cyber trafficking, the local government must carry out human trafficking campaigns digitally as well.

The Road Ahead

Brunei’s government has done more than just create hotlines for people to report potential human trafficking or labor violation cases. It has publicized numerous labor inspections of government ministries and agencies to promote transparency and accountability. The government of Brunei has also partaken in the Youth South East Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) to continue to raise awareness on human trafficking. By participating in the United State’s YSEALI, young citizens of Brunei attended seminars on how to actively combat human trafficking. As people learn about human trafficking and raise awareness, human trafficking in Brunei will hopefully soon decrease.

Carolina Cadena
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Cuba
Human trafficking in Cuba is a very present and ongoing issue. It has been on the rise for years, especially in regards to forced labor and government-sponsored labor export programs. Studies have revealed that the government forced and bribed as many as 30,000 Cuban doctors and medical professionals into human trafficking situations in over 50 countries. Traffickers frequently exploit Cuban victims abroad in South America and the Caribbean as well as the United States. They also exploit domestic and foreign victims in Cuba making the claim that it is to pay off travel debts.

The Problem

The Cuban government has instigated international medical missions that many refer to as a contemporary form of slavery. These have been a source of income for the Castro regime for years, with the Cuban government collecting income on each medical professional’s services. As a result, medical professionals in Cuba typically receive only a small portion of their money, which goes into accounts that they do not have control over. Research has shown that participants frequently do not receive adequate information about the conditions of their contracts before entering into them. The government even withholds some of their documents as a form of blackmail. The participants of these labor export programs often work long hours with no rest in dangerous living conditions.

Government involvement in human trafficking in Cuba has become apparent. This is due to the government’s lack of interest in addressing or eliminating these programs. The Cuban government is not making significant efforts to eliminate these practices. Because of this, it has received Tier 3 status in the U.S. Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons report due to how little it has done to eliminate human trafficking. However, efforts are in progress to eradicate these practices. Law enforcement criminalized some forms of labor trafficking and began prosecuting human traffickers. Additionally, international trafficking relating to forced labor or similar activities is now a punishable offense, potentially leading to the penalty of imprisonment from seven to 15 years. This is a deterrent to traffickers as statistics have shown a decline in prosecutions over the past few years.

Solutions

Some NGOs have identified trafficking victims to state authorities and provided them with psychological treatment. They also provided healthcare and other resources. Some of these NGOs include the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC), the Cuban Commission of Human Rights and National Reconciliation, the Prevention and Social Assistance Commission and the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution.

The FMC began in 1960, involving itself in the human trafficking situation in Cuba shortly after. The Cuban Commission of Human Rights and Reconciliation revealed in an interview in 2017 that it had actively become involved in monitoring arrests of traffickers, and even suggested that specific healthcare and education benefits can help reduce trafficking victims. It began in 1960 and has responded to internal and external threats with the goal of unifying the people.

The Cuban government funded protection and guidance centers for families who human traffickers had victimized. There are at least seven global anti-trafficking organizations working to provide relief to victims of forced labor and modern-day slavery in Cuba and other countries worldwide. Although very small numbers of forced labor victims actually seek help, these organizations offer different policies and programs to offer support or benefits and help survivors resist re-traumatization. Cuban law authorized courts to allow restitution to trafficking victims.

US Involvement

In another attempt to address forced labor and human trafficking in Cuba, some U.S. Senators sent a letter to the Secretary of State expressing their concern about the forced labor and human trafficking situation in Cuba. They suggested ideas such as directing U.S. Embassies to different countries to advise and inform them on Cuba’s forced labor programs.

The Cuban government involves people in forced labor and labor export programs. However, some human traffickers are now experiencing prosecution for their crimes. In addition, help became readily available to victims of human trafficking and U.S. officials have increased their involvement.

Annamarie Perez
Photo: Flickr

Youth Workforce
Pakistan is looking to bridge the skills gap between Pakistan’s youth workforce and the upcoming demands of its rising technology and automation markets. Structural change is necessary for Pakistan as the growing youth population faces challenges such as a rising unemployment rate and socioeconomic and gender disparities that keep students out of the classroom. In 2020, youth in Pakistan faced an unemployment rate as high as 8.5%; today, approximately 44% of children and teenagers are out of school. With 64% of the population younger than 30, Pakistan has more young people than ever who have the power to revolutionize its workforce by becoming re-skilled in relevant and desirable industries.

Pakistan’s Fourth Industrial Revolution

Pakistan is ushering in its fourth industrial revolution with a big challenge to overcome: enrolling more youth in schools where they can begin working with technology at an early age. This is especially critical as countries are growing increasingly dependent on online learning and employment during the worldwide COVID-19 crisis.

Pakistan’s rising investments in automation, e-commerce, digital payment systems and more requires the youth workforce to keep pace with new technologies. Such growth poses many new opportunities for the nation, including modernizing technology and making tasks such as digital banking and online learning easier.

According to Parwaaz, a reskilling initiative that the World Economic Forum supports, the top 10 skills of 2025 include:

  • Technology Use & Monitoring
  • Technology Design
  • Critical Thinking & Analysis
  • Active Learning & Learning Strategies
  • Reasoning, Problem Solving & Ideation
  • Analytical Thinking & Innovation
  • Resilience & Stress Tolerance
  • Complex Problem Solving
  • Leadership & Social Influence
  • Creativity & Originality

These skills can take the Pakistani youth beyond their current capabilities by smoothing their transition into the workforce while giving existing employees opportunities for career advancement.

A Multistakeholder Approach to Success

Pakistan’s largest skills development fund, the Punjab Skills and Development Fund (PSDF), is partnering with the World Economic Forum to join the “Reskilling Revolution.” According to Managing Director Saadia Zahidi, the goal of the revolution is to bring better work, skills and education to over 1 billion people by 2030. Challenges to reskilling include high costs, disconnects between training and relevant skills and few private training opportunities. However, with the launch of Parwaaz, a more structured form of reskilling is underway.

A multi-stakeholder public and private skills training initiative, Parwaaz has pinpointed six sectors that require trained workers in order to accommodate future market demands. These sectors include:

  • ICT
  • Financial Services
  • Textile
  • Hospitality
  • Retail and Services
  • Manufacturing & Light Engineering
  • Agriculture & Livestock

Parwaaz is expecting to change the core skills of 40% of workers in the country, raise the rate of automation from 33% in 2020 to 47% by 2025 and give two out of three employers returns on human capital investment. It plans to achieve this by creating incubators that will train 1,000 young people by June 2021 in market-relevant skills. Parwaaz will continue to function with financial and policy support from the Pakistani government and support from other stakeholders such as educational institutions and industry experts.

Integrating Pakistan’s youth workforce into new, more advanced markets is a nationwide effort that will result in high-performing companies, skilled employees, increased innovation and a stable structure for the future. Ultimately, investments in technology, automation and the growing youth workforce will lead to a brighter future for everyone while helping lift vulnerable populations of poverty.

Julia Ditmar
Photo: Flickr

workers in BangladeshBangladesh’s economy is mostly dependent on the textile/garment industry. Garments account for around 80% of the country’s exports. Some 3.5 million workers in Bangladesh, 85% of which are women, work long hours with pay too low to support themselves and their families. Not only is the pay low but they also work in cramped, dangerous conditions without any financial protection. Majority-female workers are also subject to sexual harassment and other forms of sexism in the workplace.

Moreover, in the recent global climate, many factories have shut down resulting in layoffs, pay cuts and a struggling economy (not to mention workforce). Many of these factory workers are struggling to make ends meet; forced to figure out just how to survive. Here are three ways that the garment workers of Bangladesh are struggling.

3 Ways Garment Workers in Bangladesh Are Struggling

  1. Working conditions in sweatshops are hazardous and violate workers’ rights. These workers often work long hours and have little time between shifts. They have very little workspace as it is typically cramped with other workers. This makes for quite a dangerous working environment. Making matters worse, factory owners have taken strides to limit and prevent labor unions from forming, even though they are legal. These factory owners are suppressing their workers and taking advantage of the situation.
  2. The Covid-19 pandemic has greatly affected these laborers. Workers in the factories were struggling to get by — even before the pandemic closed many factories and lowered the level of garment exports. Many Western brands have canceled their orders from the factories due to decreased sales resulting from the pandemic. Western companies canceled their orders — a large percentage of them. This hurt both the factories and the workers. Factory owners are no longer able to pay their workers and 58% of factory owners reported having to shut down their factories because of such low demand. Management then consequently lays off many of these struggling workers. Without jobs, they have no way to support themselves and certainly not a family.
  3. Even though women account for 85% of the textile workforce in Bangladesh — they are still given neither the rights nor conditions they deserve. Women face sexual harassment and improper maternity leave. While the government guarantees maternity leave for at least 100 days for their first two children — one report noted that around 50% of all women interviewed in said report never enjoyed the proper break. Many of the women who do get maternity leave have to return to a lower position, regardless of the fact that it is illegal for companies to demote a woman simply because of maternity leave.

Organizations Making an Effort

Global Giving is a non-government organization that aims to educate women working in sweatshops and lift them out of poverty. The hope is that in turn, they would also encourage others to do the same by fighting for their rights. Global Giving is a great organization to support because not only does it directly improve the lives of individual women, it also helps women as a whole become more equal and independent. This may help women stray away from sweatshops.

Workers’ Rights

Bangladesh is facing widespread hardship within its working-class because of inadequate and unfair treatment. Adding to the already unsustainable pay — the global pandemic has caused even more layoffs and pay cuts than pre-outbreak outbreak times. The problem that existed before the pandemic was simply highlighted in these recent months. Sweatshop workers in Bangladesh are of course worthy of fair treatment and should receive the rights they deserve.

Samira Akbary
Photo: Flickr