The report is the result of a two-year study funded by the US Department of Labour and undertaken by Verité, a nonprofit organisation focused on labour issues.
More than 500 migrant workers at around 200 companies in Malaysia’s IT manufacturing sector were surveyed and one in three were working under conditions of forced labour.
Dan Viederman, CEO of Verité, said workers were lured to the company using deceptive adverts. The job looks good enough that they pay a broker to apply, often borrowing money from friends and family to do so.
When they arrive, their passport is taken by their employer and they’re threatened with deportation if they don’t work overtime. Since they are broke, and do not have a passport and with little knowledge of the legal process, they accept the increased workload.
The fees paid to brokers to obtain the overseas work are crippling and more than 90 per cent say that they pay them. Three quarters said they borrowed money to do so. More than half said it took more than a year of work to clear the debt, and they cannot leave Malaysia until it was paid.
Many of the factories were operated by subcontractors or suppliers to major brand-name companies, and Viederman said that all companies sourcing from Malaysia should audit their supply chain.
Companies should amend their codes of conduct for suppliers to ban the payment of fees to brokers and ensure workers are allowed to keep their identity documents when they arrive, he said.
The US Department of State said the situation in Malaysia had worsened in its annual report on human trafficking. The government there made “limited efforts to improve its flawed victim protection regime” despite assurances it would work to solve the problem.