Every year the U.S. State Department publishes its Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report as a tool to engage foreign governments on human trafficking. The report ranks each country in three tiers based on their efforts to combat trafficking, with Tier 3 (its lowest level) potentially leading to sanctions.
This year’s TIP report has been commended by some for the downgrade of Burma and Uzbekistan given each countries’ lack of action on this issue. It’s the upgrading of Thailand and Malaysia remaining on the Tier 2 watch list that calls into question its usefulness for businesses.
For years Thailand’s seafood industry has been at the center of widespread labor abuse investigations. Despite the government’s efforts to address these issues, a recent research report found the government has put no enforcement mechanisms in place to truly make a difference. Therefore, for many, the upgrading of Thailand seems unwarranted.
KnowTheChain’s recent benchmark report focuses on the ICT industry, a sector that’s particularly at-risk of labor abuses. Workers manufacturing components in technology companies’ supply chains are often migrant workers, particularly vulnerable to exploitation during the recruitment process and in their workplaces. As a Verité study found in 2014, that nearly a third of migrant workers in Malaysia’s electronics sector are in situations of forced labor—building and assembling products for some of the world’s major technology firms.
Despite these findings and little action by the Malaysian government, Malaysia was upgraded in last year’s report. A move that was seen as politically motivated and highly controversial. This year Malaysia’s ranking remained unchanged.
The TIP Report is intended to be a comprehensive resource on how governments are doing in their fight to address trafficking within their borders. As such, it could be a useful tool for corporations when assessing the nation-states with which they conduct business or as a tool to evaluate their supply chains’ exposure to forced labor risks. Unfortunately, when the TIP report becomes politicized, it becomes a less useful resource for the business community.