Major electronic brands involved in Malaysian forced labour

Forced labour is being used across the Malaysian electronic manufacturing industry, according to a new report.

The two-year study, funded by the US Department of Labor and undertaken by Verité, claims that almost all of the major electronics brands are implicated in some way.

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The survey of more than 500 migrant workers at approximately 200 companies in Malaysia's IT sector found that one in three were being forced to work.

Often the problem begins when workers pay a broker to help them apply for a deceptive job advert, with many having to borrow money from friends and family. Once they arrive at the place of employment, their passport is taken and they are threatened with deportation if they do not work long, unreasonable hours.

CEO of Verité, Dan Viederman, said that the workers are often left with little option but to accept the increased workload.

"It's a form of exploitation that should long ago have been confined to the past," he said in a conference call with reporters.

The additional problem of having to pay back debts to the brokers that helped them gain the overseas work is particularly worrying. Over 90 per cent of those surveyed said that they had paid such fees, with three out of four borrowing money in order to do so.

Although Verité didn't name the firms involved, it did confirm that many were operated by subcontractors or suppliers to major brand companies.

Viederman added that businesses should modify their codes of conduct to ensure suppliers ban broker fees and allow employees to keep their identity documents.

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"Any and all companies sourcing from Malaysia should audit their supply chain," he said.

The Verité report arrives three months after the US Department of State claimed that the level of human trafficking in Malaysia had worsened.