How the ILO is helping to end forced labour in Uzbekistan’s cotton industry

Beate Andrees

Beate Andrees,
Chief of the Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work Branch

Nearly a quarter of the adult population in Uzbekistan—over three million people—take part in the country’s cotton harvest each year. Some two thirds of them are women.

The ILO has been monitoring the cotton harvest for child labour since 2013. In 2015, it began monitoring the harvest for forced labour and child labour as part of an agreement with the World Bank.
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“I was in child labour. Now I’m getting my MBA.”

Usman Bilal

Usman Bilal, a former child labourer, is an MBA student and child-labour activist.

When I was young, I lived in my village in Pakistan with my father, mother, three brothers and four sisters. My father was a carpenter and he worked hard to build a bright future for his family, but his income was too low to make this possible.

So, in 2001, when I was just ten, my parents sent me far away, to my maternal uncle’s workshop in the village of Bhagwal Awan, in the district of Sialkot, to make surgical instruments. I didn’t want to go, I wanted to stay in school and study, but I had no choice.

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“What I learned from spending a day at the docks with Thailand’s labour inspectors”

Kuanruthai Siripatthanakol, National Project Coordinator (Thailand), GMS TRIANGLE Project

In an icy cold room in the fishing port of Samut Sakhon, a labour inspector reads over the payroll ledger of a small shrimp peeling shed. Most of the workers are from Myanmar and some of them appear to be very young. They are hesitant to discuss their situation with the inspectors, especially as their employer looks on. The ledger reveals discrepancies in the number of hours worked and payment of the daily minimum wage of 300THB (about US$ 9.15).

I’m here as part of a five-day training course for labour inspectors from the coastal provinces of Thailand.

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