Serious abuse in mushroom farms, Bulgarian truck drivers who are put to work under false pretence, and Philippines who are working on Dutch oil platforms without authorization. Labour exploitation is a global problem. One thing we can say about labour exploitation is, that it tolerates no daylight, therefore we do not have a clear picture of it. Furthermore labour exploitation occurs there where conditions permit it and the forms of exploitation are changeable and easily adapt to the circumstances. And, with the massive influx of refugees in Europe,  it is likely that new forms of

labour exploitation will occur, in the Netherlands as well as internationally. What are the new phenomena of labour exploitation that the Netherlands may face?
Commissioned by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment (SWZ) DSP-groep conducted international research into new phenomena of labour exploitation that might occur in the Netherlands. We worked together with the International Victimology Institute Tilburg (INTERVICT) of the Tilburg University. A topical challenge in the light of the current migration – and refugee flows.

Labour exploitation

Labour exploitation is a serious violation of fundamental human rights. It is contrary to the Constitution and the principles of social security, the system partly designed to counteract dependency on and arbitrariness by an employer. Under criminal law labour exploitation falls under the broader concept of ‘human trafficking’ and is punishable in the Netherlands since January 1, 2005. In the English language the terms ‘forced labour’ and ‘modern slavery’ are often used.

Labour exploitation is not unique to the Netherlands. It is a global problem, with a significant international component. Victims in the Netherlands are mostly foreigners: from EU and non-EU countries (third country nationals). Labour exploitation is thus closely related to migration. Labour exploitation in the Netherlands therefore depends largely on the free movement of persons and services within the EU and immigration within and into the EU.

Therefore, to gain insight into the risks of possible new phenomena of labour exploitation in the Netherlands, it  was necessary to look abroad.

New phenomena

Trends in the Netherlands, which, in comparison to several surrounding countries now occur relatively little and of which, on the basis of a comparison a possible increase can be expected are, for example:

  • Tax avoidance schemes.
  • Collecting benefits of others for their own gain.
  • Possible increase in forced begging as a separate form of human trafficking.

We see new phenomena emerging in the neighbouring countries as well. Specific examples include the exploitation of toilet ladies along motorways in Belgium, nannies for the elderly in Austria, exploitation at equestrian centres in Belgium, exploitation by the withholding of payments in the UK. In Germany migrants with identity documents and work permits exploit migrants without valid residence and work permits, by letting them work on their permit.

Moreover, an increase is expected from exploitation of Syrian, Iraqi, Afghan and Eritrean asylum seekers. Refugees and asylum seekers in any case represent a vulnerable population at risk of labour exploitation. Netherlands – and the EU as a whole – must therefore remain vigilant for labour exploitation of refugees.

We also expect an increase in the exploitation of Syrian, Iraqi, Afghan and Eritrean people, with the increasing influx of refugees and asylum seekers. Refugees and asylum seekers from any country represent a vulnerable population that easily fall prey to labour exploitation. Netherlands – and the EU as a whole – must therefore remain vigilant for labour exploitation of refugees.

Need for monitoring

It is clear that, given the constantly changing face of labour exploitation and the international component, it is necessary to get a clear view of and to keep a structural and continuous close eye on the new phenomena of labour exploitation in the Netherlands.

But how to keep a close eye on changeable phenomena that adapt easily to their environment? The LEEW method is a handy tool to achieve that with. Also, we are very pleased that the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has commissioned us to experiment with a new approach to gain good insight into the nature and extent of this problem. Labour exploitation is a serious violation of fundamental human rights. We are very committed to fight against this many-headed monster!

More information?

Would you like to know more about this topic? Please contact Manja Abraham.

Manja Abraham Manja Abraham