Asian businesses mull tech solutions to fight modern slavery

Asia’s business leaders are working on recommendations for protecting migrant workers from slavery and other abuse, according to Australia’s ambassador for people smuggling and human trafficking.

One idea might be to create a regional website that rates employment recruiters — something already being done in Vietnam, Andrew Goledzinowski said. Another idea could be to designate a common telephone number as a regional hotline, similar to what the sportswear company Adidas provides to its factory workers in China and elsewhere.

Goledzinowski suggested the ideas at a forum of officials and business leaders from 45 Indo-Pacific countries known as the Bali Process, aimed at ensuring supply chains were not tainted by slave labor.

Participants agreed at the meeting in Perth, Australia, to submit recommendations to governments next year “for how to better manage the recruitment of migrant workers and the protection of migrant workers,” Goledzinowski said in an interview Wednesday.

The idea is to improve supply chain transparency “so that businesses are not just responsible for what happens in their business, but also who they buy from,” he said.

Participants also suggested freeing workers from having to paying for their own recruitment. That often leads to workers dealing with recruiters they do not know, being charged high fees and then having their passport taken away when they reach their destination.

“And very quickly you are trafficked, in fact, you are in debt bondage,” he said, expressing hope that business leaders agree that “migrant workers should not have to pay for their own recruitment.”

The recommendations will cover employment ethics, transparency standards and safeguards for victims and whistle-blowers. Some will be classed as minimum standards, and some as more ambitious targets.

“There’s a lot that can be done which actually is quite easy, but it only works if everyone does it,” Goledzinowski said.

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