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Malaysia electronics factories perpetuate servitude

Posted: 19 Sep 2014 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:labour conditions? electronics manufacturing? forced labour?

Close to a hundred thousand workers in the electronics manufacturing sector of Malaysia are exploited through inhumane labour conditions that can be likened to "modern slavery," according to a report recently released by fair-labour organisation Verite.

Verite, which is based in the U.S., claimed in its study that almost one-third of electronics factory workers in Malaysia were unable to pay sky-high recruitment fees that forced them into a lifetime of servitude. Most of these workers came from impoverished nearby countries such as Indonesia, Nepal, India, Vietnam, Bangladesh, and Burma.

The study was based on interviews with 501 workers across the country and was commissioned by the U.S. government, which bans the import of goods made with forced labour.

The Verite report did not mention any companies, but Malaysia's electronics manufacturing sector supplies major global companies like Apple, Samsung, and Sony among others. A bulk of production operations includes semiconductors, computer peripherals, consumer electronics, communications equipment, and other products and components, making this sector a key player in the country's economy.

In its assessment, Verite found that workers go into debt by paying excessive recruitment fees, which are charged both in the workers' home countries and in Malaysia. Also, recruits often got deceived regarding salary levels, working conditions, and terms for opting out of jobs. The report stated that workers struggled to repay debts and had to incur new charges should they decide to leave their jobs early.

Apart from these fees, workers also felt pressured to work overtime and were forced to sleep in overcrowded rooms. In addition, the report mentioned that 94 per cent of foreign workers had to surrender their passports to their employers, while 71 per cent said they found it impossible to retrieve them.

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