The illegal and often abusive treatment of migrant workers is one of the most pressing reputational risks for global corporations
Each day I post a new Online MCAT CARS Passage. This is for anyone who wants to practice for the Critical Analysis and Reasoning Section.
Every article is selected to meet the AAMC MCAT criteria for MCAT CARS.
Subscribe by email to receive a new free practice passage each morning.
May 30, 2017 – Online MCAT CARS Practice
Question: What is your summary of the author’s main ideas. Post your own answer in the comments before reading those made by others.
The illegal and often abusive treatment of migrant workers is one of the most pressing reputational risks for global corporations, according to a report released on Monday.
Recent exposés concerning forced labour – from the Thai seafood industry to the Turkish garment sector – reveal how pervasive the problem of migrant abuse is.
It is rare for multinationals to employ illegal migrants directly, but claiming ignorance about abusive practices in their supply chains is no longer a defence, says the report. “There’s a public assumption that companies are responsible for all the workers that contribute to the end product that they sell,” says Alexandra Channer, principal human rights analyst at Verisk Maplecroft and co-author of the report.
“Most companies haven’t mapped beyond their tier 1 [primary] suppliers, so they have this hidden deep part of their supply chain where they are vulnerable to serious human rights allegations that they might be totally unaware of.”
The notion that the world’s largest corporations are profiting from abusive labour practices is, regrettably, nothing new. A stinging report from the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) recently estimated that the world’s 50 largest companies indirectly employ 116m “hidden” undocumented workers – equivalent to 94% of all the workers connected to their business.
Under international norms such as the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, companies are expected to undertake due diligence on their supply chains, says ITUC general secretary Sharan Burrow. Yet few do. “The evidence of increasing insecure work informality and forced labour is mounting. There is no moral compass for business that makes profit from exploitation. This must change,” says Burrow.
Many of ITUC’s recommendations coincide with those highlighted in Verisk Maplecroft’s report: provide a safe working environment, end short-term contracts, pay a minimum wage and allow for collective bargaining. None are impossible. With their cash reserves alone, the world’s 25 largest companies could pay informal workers in their supply chain $5,000 extra per year, ITUC calculates.
Getting a clearer view of working conditions among suppliers and sub-suppliers is becoming simpler too. For instance, Sedex, a specialist in supply chain data, provides 38,000 suppliers in 150 countries with a self-assessment questionnaire that corporations can access to determine their exposure to human rights risks. A handful of brands, including UK retailers such as Marks & Spencer and Boden, are also experimenting with mobile technology [pdf] to enable workers to anonymously report working conditions in real time.
Even if such systems were faultless (which they’re not: suppliers can fudge self-assessment forms; vulnerable workers may not have phones), the problem of migrant abuse will persist. Migrant workers and refugees frequently find themselves in situations of effective forced labour even before they turn up at the factory gates.
The only long-term solution is to tackle the issue at source, says Lara White, senior labour mobility specialist at the International Organisation for Migration. That means stamping out the unscrupulous recruitment agencies that oversee the so-called migrant “corridors” feeding global demand for cheap foreign labour.
“What you have is a worker who is being brought into a job and is in debt already,” says White, who adds that some workers pay as much as two years’ salary to recruiters.
“If there is a breakdown in the employer-employee relationship, they [workers] are either told they have to stay until they have paid off their debt or they can leave but they may still owe money back home, so they don’t have realistic choices about leaving exploitative situations.”
According to the International Labour Organization’s private employment convention recruitment fees should be met by employers, not workers. Not only does such an approach protect workers, but it should also drive criminality out of the system: fees would normalise, selection processes would closer reflect business needs and expectations of both employer and employee would be better understood from the start.
“These [exorbitant fees] are not an aberration – it’s the way the business model operates throughout the global south,” says Neill Wilkins, a project manager at the Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB). “The fees that migrants are paying bear no relationship whatsoever to the true costs of recruitment.”
IHRB is the co-promoter of the Dhaka Principles for Migration with Dignity, which set out 10 measures to reduce the risk of migrant abuse in corporate supply chains. Top of the list is the “employer pays” principle. Big business has failed to publicly back this simple principle, with the exception of the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC), which recently changed its code of conduct to prohibit the payment of recruitment fees by workers.
The EICC’s revised code of conduct sets a bar for global companies in other respects too. As well as banning fee payments, it prohibits abusive practices such as withholding workers’ passports and placing unreasonable restrictions on their movements. Migrant workers must also be provided with a written employment agreement in their native language prior to departing from their country of origin.
Adapted from theguardian.
Leave a comment below with what you understood to be the author’s main ideas. Ask about this daily passage in office hours/workshops for help.
Subscribe to my Daily CARS mailing list by entering your email.
The full list of daily articles is available here.
This was an article on Economics.
Have a great day.
MCAT CARS Instructor.