Migrant workers have played a central partin the economic success story of manySouth-East Asian countries in recent years. Asthese countries have embraced the ‘outwardsturn’ of export orientation, migrant workershave provided a regular source of cheaplabour that has allowed their manufacturingindustries to compete successfully on worldmarkets. Women migrants, in particular, havetaken on jobs considered too arduous orunpleasant by local workers.Thailand, Cambodia and Malaysia havereaped huge economic benefits from thecontribution made by migrant workers.In Cambodia, almost 90% of garmentfactory workers are young women whohave migrated from rural areas of the country.Migration from neighbouring countries hasprovided an essential source of cheap labourto the thriving export industries of Thailandand Malaysia. Despite their contribution,these same countries have refused to grantmigrant workers the rights and security thatare their due.This report presents the results of newresearch into the lives and conditionsfacing migrant women workers in Thailand,Cambodia and Malaysia. In particular, itpresents the findings of a series of in-depthinterviews with migrant women workers – many of them still teenagers – conductedin each country. The interviews reveala common tale of precarious lives in theface of state oppression and exploitationat the hands of unscrupulous employers.Many Western companies are also profitingfrom the abuse of migrant women workersdetailed in this report. High street brandssuch as Adidas, Nike, Reebok and Levi-Strausssell goods produced in all three countries,while low labour costs have made Cambodiaa key source of cheap clothing for stores suchas Gap, Zara, Marks & Spencer and H&M.Workers in Malaysia’s booming electronicsindustry supply market leaders all overthe world.War on Want believes that women migrantworkers in South-East Asia, like all workers,have the right to a living wage and decentworking conditions. It is wrong for countriessuch as Thailand, Cambodia and Malaysia torely on the labour of such workers for theireconomic success and yet refuse to grantthem even the most basic security in theirlives. It is equally unacceptable for Westerncompanies to profit from the violationof migrant workers’ rights in their supplychains. All readers are encouraged to takethe actions listed at the end of this report inorder to secure justice for women migrantworkers in South-East Asia, and aroundthe world.
John HilaryExecutive Director War on Want