The Next Decade of Migration, Fashion and Human Rights
15:00 – 16:30 (Bangkok time, GMT+7), 3 June 2021
Organised by the International Organization for Migration (IOM)
Labour migration has been a defining feature of the modern economy. Migrant workers, both internal and international, are an increasingly important part of the global garment and textile industry workforce. Garment producing countries such as Egypt, Jordan, Malaysia, Mauritius, Taiwan and Thailand rely heavily on international migrants, especially women. On the other hand, the garment and textile industries of countries such as Bangladesh, Cambodia, China or India depend on internal migrant labour.
These workers are particularly vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, which became even more apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic that left many migrants stranded or laid off in a dire need of assistance. For the fashion industry, 2020 was the year in which everything changed. The industry suffered its worst year on record. According to McKinsey, the pandemic has not only accelerated a pre-existing shift in consumer demand for justice for workers, but also the increased importance of sustainable sourcing, digitization and the rise of circular business models.
As momentum for change builds alongside campaigns to end exploitation, consumers will expect companies to offer more dignity, security and justice to workers, including migrant workers, throughout the global industry.
For the fashion industry, a new decade of business and human rights is marked by the transition to circularity, disruptive business models and the striving for more inclusive workplaces. Ensuring that migrant workers are not left behind in these efforts is yet another challenge that companies will have to address in the new normal.
The session will explore the risks migrant workers in the fashion and textile industry have faced up until now, and will face in the next decade. It will reflect on the contributions of both internal and international migrant workers to the fashion industry in Asia and the Pacific and will discuss the ways migrants experience different vulnerabilities than those experienced by local workers.
Discussions will consider the ways that risks faced by migrant workers, especially women, may change as international fashion supply chains respond to trends such as sustainable sourcing, digitization, the rise of circular business models, and demand for justice. Further, discussions will draw attention to the actions businesses are currently taking to ensure migrant workers are not left behind. The session will also discuss the role the private sector can play to ensure that migrant workers are not left behind throughout the next decade of business and human rights.
The key objectives of this session are to:
Reflect on the role and contribution of migrant workers, both internal and international, to the fashion industry in Asia and the Pacific region, and how vulnerabilities facing migrants differ from those facing local workers;
Reflect on how future business trends are likely to affect the situation of migrant workers, especially women, in international fashion supply chains in the next decade;
Discuss current business efforts and the role that private sector can play in ensuring that migrant workers are not left behind in the next decade of business and human rights.
Panelists will reflect on the following questions:
What role have migrant workers, both international and internal, played in the fashion industry so far?
How do vulnerabilities and experiences of migrant workers, both internal and international, differ from those facing local workers? How are future business trends likely to affect the situation of migrant workers, especially women, in international fashion supply chains in the next decade, and how will this impact differ for internal and international migrants?
What are current business efforts and the role that private sector can play in ensuring that migrant workers are not left behind in the next decade of business and human rights?
Additional Background Documents
McKinsey & Company. (2021). The State of Fashion 2021. McKinsey & Company.
SOMO. (2016). Fact Sheet: Migrant labour in the textile and garment industry. Amsterdam: Stichting Onderzoek Multinationale Ondernemingen.