World Day Against Trafficking in Persons – forced labour and electronics

31 July 2020

If you are reading this on a tablet, smart phone or computer monitor, then you may be using a product of forced labour right now.

Malaysia is one of the world’s leading exporters of information and communication technology (ICT), with electronics accounting for almost 40 percent of the country’s total exports in 2018.  

Most of the internationally best-selling electronics brands are in one way or anther sourcing from Malaysia.

Semiconductors, also known as integrated circuits or computer chips, are Malaysia’s greatest export commodity; they sit inside the majority of electronic equipment being produced today, from mobile phones to burglar alarms.

This means that virtually every device on the market can have components that have passed through Malaysia. 

Millions of foreign workers often end up paying extortionate fees for recruitment into low-skilled work, which may plunge an entire family into debt and make workers vulnerable to debt bondage in Malaysia.

Forced labour, unlawful passport retention and illegal wage deductions have been documented in the Malaysian electronics industry. 

But even though the working conditions are the responsibility of the Malaysian employers and covered by Malaysian law, a number of international instructions also point to the responsibility of the foreign companies that are buying products and components from the local factories.

It’s time to create an economy where people are never exploited in order to produce the goods we buy. 

Companies have a responsibility to ensure no slavery has been used in production of the goods they sell.

This applies not only to goods produced in their own factories but also to their suppliers, and suppliers of their suppliers, all the way down the supply chain. 

Know the Chain’s ICT Benchmark provides a ranking of electronics brands, which can help inform consumer demands for action from the brands we know and love. 

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