International Labour Organization (ILO) and Beate Andrees
The definition of forced labour is enshrined in the ILO Forced Labour Convention No. 29
(1930). According to Article 2, forced labour is defined as:
“all work or service that is exacted from any person under the menace
of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself
Several elements of this definition need further elaboration:
1. “All work or service” encompasses all types of work, employment or
occupation. The nature or legality of the employment relationship is
2. “Any person” refers to adults as well as children. It is also irrelevant
whether or not the person is a national of the country in which the
forced labour case has been identified.
3. “Menace of penalty” refers not only to criminal sanctions but also to
various forms of coercion, such as threats, violence, retention of
identity documents, confinement or non-payment of wages. The key
issue is that workers should be free to leave an employment
relationship without losing any rights or privileges. Examples are the
threat to lose a wage that is due to the worker or the right to be
protected from violence.
4. “Voluntary” refers to the consent of a worker to enter a given
employment relationship. While a worker may have entered an
employment contract without any forms of deception or coercion, he
or she must always be free to revoke a consensually made agreement.
In other words, free and informed consent has to be the basis of
recruitment and has to exist throughout the employment relationship.
If the employer or recruiter had used deception or coercion, consent
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These are some examples where forced labour can be found today:
• Forced labour linked to migration and exploitative labour contract
systems can be found everywhere in the world today. For example,
migrant workers from Indonesia, India, the Philippines or other Asian
countries can find themselves “bonded” to a labour contractor due to
excessive fees and with limited if any possibilities to change the employer in the destination country. Main destination countries for Asian migrant
workers include Singapore, Malaysia and countries of the Middle East. In
Europe, labour agencies came under scrutiny following reports of serious
exploitation of migrant workers. The boundaries between clandestine
work and organised crime are sometimes blurred.
note: "and with limited if any possibilities to change the employer in the destination country"
(...)Such indicators may not always be an element of forced
labour; however they should be read as signals to investigate further. The overall assessment
has to be based on the question whether a worker has given a free and informed
consent when accepting work and is free to leave the employment relationship.
• Debt and other forms of bondage:Are work permits bound to a specific employer?
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Journalists, Employers, agencies and their representatives, and NGOs/community groups/solidarity networks
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