ILO Reports Strong Reduction in Forced Labour in Uzbekistan Cotton Harvest



The ILO  announced significant progress made by Uzbekistan in addressing forced and child labour issues during the Cotton Harvest. amfori was present for the release and debate on its  report -  3rd Party Monitoring of Child Labour and Forced Labour in the Cotton Harvest in Uzbekistan . This was published at the Sustaining Reforms through Decent Work Conference in Tashkent, Uzbekistan on 5 February 2020. The event brought the ILO together with the World Bank, EU, GIZ, amfori, civil society and human rights activists to discuss strengthening labour market governance in Uzbekistan. amfori has been consulted by both the ILO and GIZ to explore how it could support the reforms and progress made with capacity building programmes to further educate the cotton industry.

About the Report:

The report shows that the vast majority of pickers participated in the harvest were reported to be voluntary but about 102,000 people1 (5.9%) were still subject to some form of coercion. This signifies that the number of forced pickers declined by 40% in 2019.  The ILO report reinforces progress reported to the previous year where when it published that forced and child labour were no longer systematic and represented 7% of the cotton harvest labour force.  The ILO continues to urge the Uzbek Government to reduce forced labour completely.

This report of progress was echoed by almost all other actors at the Conference, including other UN institutions, the EU, European as well as US governments, local civil society and even international civil society. One of the government’s strongest critics, the CSO Cotton Campaign even described progress made on forced labour in the country as unprecedented but stated that according its own monitoring levels of forced labour were still higher than those reported by the ILO. The Cotton Campaign will release its own independent report on forced labour in Uzbekistan in March 2020.

Significantly, the Uzbek government announced at the Conference that it would be ending its system of cotton production quotas. This is important as many critics had viewed these quotas as the main driver of forced labour.  Uzbekistan has applied to the EU for GSP+ regime of preferential trade with the EU. It has also applied to join the WTO. Furthermore, significant investments in the country from Europe has allowed the country to acquire modern and efficient machines, and its proximity to Europe could further allow for easier access to European markets.