Endline research findings on fishers and seafood workers in Thailand

A new ILO report on working conditions in Thailand’s fishing and seafood industry highlights changes since 2017 and estimates forced labour situations among workers surveyed in 11 coastal provinces.

New evidence from workers in Thailand’s fishing and seafood industry shows improvements in working conditions since 2017 as well as a forced labour problem. Following up on its ‘baseline’ research published in 2018, the ILO’s Ship to Shore Rights Project (funded by the European Union) surveyed 219 fishers and 251 seafood processing workers for evidence of changes in recruitment, contracts, pay, hours, safety and worker organizing.

The ILO’s 2018 base-line report unveiled a mixed picture of working conditions in both fishing and seafood processing in Thailand.

Two years later, the ‘endline’ survey shows that changes in working conditions are, on the whole, moving in the right direction. Pay is higher in both sectors, and migration to and work in the fishing sector is now more formal and better regulated. These improvements have been driven in part by changes in Thailand’s legal framework following the ratification of the ILO Work in Fishing Convention (No. 188, 2007) and the Forced Labour Protocol (P. 29) following the 2018 report.

The ILO also encourages unions and civil society organizations—as well as their overseas funders—to re-orient efforts towards worker organizing and advocacy by workers themselves.

Finally, in order to translate buyers’ and Thai suppliers’ endorsements of decent work standards into action, the ILO calls on industry leaders in Thailand and their overseas buyers to shorten supply chains in order to increase suppliers’ accountability for labour practices, and strengthen buyers’ accountability for adherence to their own standards.

Mr Giuseppe Busini, Deputy Head of the European Union Delegation to Thailand says, “The survey shows that the trends are positive and progress is tangible. It acknowledges at the same time the need for continued efforts to address remaining challenges in an inclusive way. The EU is committed to working with Thailand to ensure continuity to the Ship to Shore Rights Project and will endeavour to scale up activities to the broader Southeast Asia region, focusing on labour migration in the fishing sector.”

Mr Suthi Sukosol, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Labour says, “This endline survey shows the accomplishment of the integration between the public sector, employers, workers, and civil society, with a mutual ambition to prevent serious labour abuses in Thailand’s fishing and seafood processing industries. The report reveals some of Thailand’s accomplishments such as the increasing of regular labour migration and higher wages. However, there are still gaps and challenges, and every partner in Thailand and neighbouring countries needs to work together to encourage fair and sustainable seafood industries along the global supply chains.”

Mr Graeme Buckley, ILO Director for Thailand, Cambodia and Lao People’s Democratic Republic, explains: “This report gives us a much-needed window on the results of the efforts by the Thai Government, employers, unions and the ILO over the past two years. We see, for example, improvements in housing conditions over the last five years, and a perception among workers in both sectors that change is moving in the right direction.”

“The data in this report demonstrate that there is still a lot of work to be done. The industry’s forced labour problem—the issue that brought global attention to Thai fishing seafood processing—is measured in this report: seven per cent of seafood processing workers and 14 per cent of fishers interviewed experienced both involuntary work and coercion, the elements of forced labour”, says Mr Buckley. “The ILO is committed to continuing work on these issues in Thailand, and to expanding this approach in the region.”

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