Migrant workers are among the most vulnerable to exploitation and often have few opportunities to assert their rights. Among other reasons, a lack of Livelihood opportunities in the home country leads to many accepting poor working conditions abroad. Exploitation of migrant workers occurs at all stages of a typical migration cycle, from recruitment to employment and upon returning home. The corona pandemic has exacerbated the situation in manufacturing countries such as Thailand, as it has led to layoffs and increased insecurity for already vulnerable workers.
Migrants can get into debt to pay for visas, health checks and travel costs for temporary employment abroad. The Employer Pays Principle was launched to minimize this risk, in line with the DhakaPrinciples for migration with dignity. They state that employers must bear all costs related to employment.
MOVE aims to empower migrant workers in global supply chains through easily accessible training, shared knowledge and constructive dialogue.
MOVE was initiated in 2020 and is an expansion of The Nordic Initiative, a successful venture where Axfoundation, together with ten Nordic food companies, including Axfood, Coop and ICA, joined forces in 2017 to raise levels of knowledge about working conditions at supplier factories in Thailand. Using the positive experience of the educational efforts made in Thailand as a springboard, MOVE turned to companies and organizations in all countries and industries. The United Nations’ International Organization for Migration (IOM), was key partner in MOVE.
The first purpose of MOVE’s efforts was to provide extra support and attention to the group of migrant workers during the pandemic. The second purpose was to prevent exploitation and discrimination by increasing the group’s awareness of rights, laws and regulations. A third aim was to increase the digital skills of migrants in a time characterized by digitization and automation.
The mobile app that MOVE developed included training on rights and obligations, health and safety, employee representation, wage setting and ethical recruitment at supplier factories. The app also contained Covid-19 information produced by IOM, whose website for migrants referred to the app and vice versa. Both the website and the app were in four languages, for migrants from Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos and locally employed Thais. Local chat groups and social media in Thailand were also linked to the platform.
The approach was to get an efficient and scalable communication platform at no cost to a group that was in need of reliable information and rights-based training. MOVE showed that it was possible to act quickly and efficiently with companies that had never collaborated before, from completely different industries and countries. Everyone had a common goal: to take responsibility for their supply chains and assist migrant workers.
MOVE launched a mobile app with training in four languages for migrant workers in Thailand.
“We wanted to make a quick, targeted and open effort in Thailand for those who were hardest hit by the pandemic, the migrant workers. They support the food industry and contribute greatly to the food on our plates and the electronics in our hands and homes. The MOVE group and the mobile app showed that it is possible to innovate in difficult times, but it was challenging to scale. “- Viveka Risberg, Axfoundation
The MOVE app was used about 300 times, well below our goal of 5,000 downloads. An independent evaluation of Rapid-Asia showed that one reason was the lack of free wi-fi or fiber-based access to free Internet. Migrants usually have a paid SIM card and do not want to spend time unnecessarily on surfing. Another problem was purely behavioral: migrant workers are not used to downloading apps (other than frequently used social media apps). We tried to address these challenges by collaborating with local organizations, but the travel restrictions made that work more difficult. We were also in dialogue with a large telecom operator with several million migrant customers, but a company merger got in the way. However: Quizrr keeps the Move app open for free, free of charge and possible to download for anyone. The need for reliable information and preventive training remains, even if the acute pandemic situation is over. We are open to the fact that the time may be ripe for a new initiative, not least because digital literacy is important for migrants, and that comes with the training app.
Axfoundation’s other investments in digital education via Quizrr have been evaluated on several occasions. Among other things, an evaluation of the Nordic Initiative’s investment in 2019 showed that the training of almost 2,300 migrant workers and managers at supplier factories in Thailand led to increased knowledge in responsibility and rights. In 2020, Axfoundation also conducted a performance evaluation of the effects on 19 suppliers to Axfood, Martin & Servera, KICKS, Filippa K and Åhléns. The report indicates that the working environment at Chinese supplier factories improved after long-term investments in digital training in the rights of employees and managers.
- Download the report “Combating unethical recruitment and discrimination of migrant workers in Thailand – 2019 Pilot report”
- Download the report “Any changes on the factory floor – Impact assessment of digital training on rights and responsibilities on 19 factories in China”
- Download the report “Any changes on the factory floor” in mandarin: 工厂车间有什 么变化吗?”
MOVE included partners such as Axfood, Axfoundation, Electrolux, HP, International Organization for Migration, Quizrr, Ulula and Unil (NorgesGruppen). Axfoundation was the project lead and also assisted in raising the resources needed to enable the project, with funds and commitment from Swedish, US-based and other international organizations.
MOVE as a project has ended for Axfoundation’s part, as the pandemic is over. It also proved difficult to scale up and reach out with the app for both behavioral and telecom technical reasons. However, companies continue to work with Quizrr on their supplier companies in Thailand. The MOVE app is up and running for the time being and can be downloaded where apps are available (search for Quizzr Move).