A step towards ending forced labour

SOLIDAR welcomes the European Commission’s proposal for a regulation to prohibit products made with forced labour on the Union's market.

On 14th of September, the European Commission published its legislative proposal for a regulation on prohibiting products made, extracted or harvested with forced labour on the Union’s market. The proposal does not target specific companies or industries, but it covers all products made in the EU for domestic consumption and exports and imported goods.  

According to the proposal, EU customs authorities will identify and stop product made with forced labour at EU borders while national authorities will be empowered to withdraw from the EU market products made with forced labour, following an investigation. 

The proposal now needs to be discussed and agreed by the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union before it can enter into force, and it will apply 24 months after that. Also, within 18 months from entry into force of the Regulation, the Commission will issue guidelines about forced labour due diligence guidance and information on risk indicators of forced labour.  

The ILO defines Forced or compulsory labour as “all work or service which is exacted from any person under the threat of a penalty and for which the person has not offered himself or herself voluntarily.” 

International Labour Organization Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29). 

According to the latest ILO estimates, there are about 27.6 million people in forced labour around the world, including in the EU.  While the majority of forced labour takes place in the private sector, by individuals or enterprises, there are also forms of State-imposed forced labour for the purposes of economic development or as a punishment, including for expressing political views.  

Forced labour represents the most common element of modern slavery and it often affects the most vulnerable and excluded groups such as women, children and migrant workers. Although commonly associated with physical violence, there are many more insidious forms in which forced labour can be exercised, ranging from debt bondage, harassment, forced overtime and deductions from salaries to even passport seizure to prevent workers from finding another job or from returning to their home country in the case of migrant workers. 

Tackling modern-day slavery is still a big challenge for many governments around the world, and with this Regulation the EU has the opportunity to take the lead and end the use of forced labour within its borders while putting pressure on its partners worldwide.  

SOLIDAR welcomes the Commission’s proposal and stresses the importance of close cooperation with global partners and international organisations worldwide. 

Moreover, SOLIDAR calls on the EU to keep promoting the signature, ratification and implementation of the ILO Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29) and its Protocol (P029) as well as of the Abolition of Forced Labour Convention, 1957 (No. 105) and the Forced Labour Recommendation, 2014 (No. 203).  

SOLIDAR will keep advocating for the achievement of SDG 8.7 which aims at eradicating forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking by 2030, and encourages the EU to take the lead and adopt ambitious legislation that could ensure that multinational companies operating in third countries promote and respect fundamental labour standards as defined by the ILO. 


Picture credits: Adam Jan Figel via Shutterstock