Fishing Net

Decent Work is Important

Organizations are struggling to define and measure decent work, so identifying thresholds for labor exploitation that align with C188 and other core ILO conventions would help organizations working to end labor abuse in marine wild-capture fisheries.

What do we know?

Approximately 200 million people around the world depend directly or indirectly on the seafood industry for employment. According to statistics from the International Labour Organization (ILO), there are now around 40 million victims of modern slavery in the world, of which 25 million are in situations of forced labour.

 

Of the 25 million, 16 million are in the private sector – half of whom are trapped in debt bondage. While there is recognition that modern slavery occurs in fishing industries in most parts of the world, there are few reliable estimates of the prevalence of modern slavery across the sector.

 

A 2017 study by the Issara Institute and the International Justice Mission examining the experiences of Cambodian and Burmese fishers in Thailand between 2011 and 2016 found that 76 percent of migrant workers in the Thai fishing industry had been held in debt bondage and almost 38 percent had been trafficked into the Thai fishing industry in that time-frame. The Global Slavery Index found that the seven countries in the world that are highest risk for modern slavery generate 29 percent of the world’s catch.

These statistics, and many more like them, show that there is a big problem. However, there is still not enough information to understand the full extent. Most of the existing focus is on forced labor, and in Southeast Asia. We need a more integrated global picture of different types of labor exploitation, which fall along a spectrum, in emerging and understudied hotspots. It is important that we don't solely focus on eliminating the most egregious abuses. This effort will show where and how we need to intervene and will allow us to measure progress towards ensuring decent work for all persons employed in fisheries.

The Certifications and Ratings Collaboration has developed a global landscape review of fishery environmental performance. Because of this work, we have a good grasp on the status of fisheries from an environmental perspective, including that 35 percent of fisheries have been certified or rated by Collaboration members. This analysis sheds light on where additional work is needed to improve environmental performance. In order to match the progress on the environmental side, we urgently need a similar resource to measure social performance of wild-capture fisheries and guide improvements so that fisheries can be both socially and environmentally sustainable.

If we can develop a much clearer understanding of how to measure a spectrum of exploitative labor practices, including violations of ILO’s concept of Decent Work in fisheries, we can fill an important knowledge gap. Organizations are struggling to define and measure decent work, so identifying thresholds for labor exploitation that align with C188 and other core ILO conventions would represent a value add for the organizations working to end labor abuse in marine wild-capture fisheries.

Fishing Village

Conventions & Frameworks

ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work

The eight fundamental Conventions are:

  1. Freedom of Association & Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87)

  2. Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98)

  3. Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29)  (and its 2014 Protocol)

  4. Abolition of Forced Labour Convention, 1957 (No. 105)

  5. Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138)

  6. Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182)

  7. Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951 (No. 100)

  8. Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958 (No. 111)

Fishing Labour Convention: ILO Work in Fishing Convention No.188 (2007)

Our Approach

The DWFI will work to address the following questions:

 

  • How might we use qualitative case study information to assess trends in violations of ILO Rights at Work and Decent Work in marine wild-capture fisheries?

  • How might we define and measure thresholds for ILO Rights at Work and Decent Work in marine wild-capture fisheries?

  • How might we identify the suite of conditions and drivers that interact and combine to produce exploitative labor situations and decent work?

The research will aim to understand these different factors and how they work together to create even more problematic outcomes (such as forced labor), which would help provide context and validation for the Global Slavery Index, and other models at the country level, and ultimately, inform policies, practices, and ratifications of conventions that are needed to protect workers.

Image by Steffen B.