Industry News

Study on Forced Labor in Malaysia and the TPP

September 18, 2014

    A quantitative-qualitative study of forced labor in the electronics manufacturing sector in Malaysia was released on September 17, 2014.  The study, which was funded by the Department of Labor, found that 28% of the 501 workers in the study fell under the International Labor Organization’s classification of forced labor.  The report stated that many of these workers were charged “recruitment fees” and/or were “misled” during the recruitment process, which put them into perpetual debt.  A total of 91% of the workers studied had their passports taken away, which allowed employers to control their movements.  In many instances, the foreign nationals were brought to this job through third party recruiters, which led to forced labor conditions.  

    This could have an impact on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations of which Malaysia is a part.  The U.S. wants to include a section to standardize and enforce legal rights for workers, as it has done in other Free Trade Agreements (FTAs).  In January 2014, The Congressional Research Service put out a report entitled, “Overview of Labor Enforcement Issues in Free Trade Agreements,” which stated that since 1993, 13 FTAs have included some kind of labor provisions.