Exploring the Role of Technology in Forced Labour

In the past decade, there has been an increased number of digital platforms that aimed at facilitating overseas labour migration and streamlining certain aspects of the recruitment process. With a sharp increase in the number of online platforms, there are reasons to believe that these platforms can reduce the vulnerabilities that migrant workers often experience when migrating abroad. For instance, digital platforms can increase transparency between workers and employers, regulate and monitor the use of third parties, keep records of travel, contracts, and visas, and facilitate access to grievance mechanisms. However, there has been little research on whether recruitment and migration platforms are affecting forced labour outcomes among migrant workers.

As recruitment and migration systems go virtual, it is crucial to understand whether digitalisation is linked to greater protection for migrant workers. Within this context, Seefar’s new article “Exploring the role of technology in forced labour” identifies the benefits and challenges of these platforms and consolidates the available evidence on the impact of digital recruitment platforms on forced labour.

Key findings include:

  • There is initial evidence that technology can streamline the recruitment process, facilitate access to migration information, and increase the monitoring of recruitment agencies. However, the lack of standardised and publicly available data makes it difficult to conclude whether these platforms are actually reducing the vulnerabilities associated with forced labour.
  • There is consensus among experts that technology alone will not eliminate exploitative recruiting practices unless accompanied by investments in enforcement, worker awareness-raising, and political will. Critics also point to other additional challenges, such as digital illiteracy among potential users, which can increase the dependency on recruitment actors.
  • There is a need for in-depth research on digital migration platforms to understand their impact on forced labour, as such findings could point to extremely cost-effective ways to strengthen migration management while also safeguarding vulnerable people.

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