New Report Highlights Opportunities to Protect Migrant Workers in Thailand’s Fishing and Seafood Processing Sector
Bangkok (25/07) – Thailand’s fishing and seafood processing sector contributes significantly to the country’s economy, while relying heavily on migrant workers. In 2022, the seafood processing sector alone employed over 160,000 registered workers from Cambodia and Myanmar.1
Although crucial progress made by the Royal Thai Government in enhancing the policy and regulatory framework to protect workers, as well as by the private sector in adopting best practices, migrant workers continue to face an array of challenges linked to unsafe migration and lack of decent work opportunities.
"We have seen some improvements in the working conditions of migrant workers in the seafood processing sector overall, especially among those companies supplying directly to international buyers," said Aleksandra Lasota, IOM Thailand’s Partnerships and Programme Coordinator, Labour Mobility and Social Inclusion. "Increased awareness among businesses of their human rights and labour standards obligations, and some promising initiatives by private sector actors to enhance supply chain transparency and identify risks facing migrant workers."
However, despite these advancements, gaps still persist due to the complex nature of seafood processing supply chains - preventing migrant workers from fully accessing their rights and entitlements.
To shed light on these challenges, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) published the report “In the Shadow of the Ships: Thailand”, which identifies gaps in protection and provides recommendations for improving working conditions in the sector, particularly for those working in the sector’s lower tiers.
Key findings were presented at the report’s launch, which gathered relevant stakeholders from government, the private sector, civil society and migrant associations.
Exclusion from basic labour protections – such as minimum wage, working hours, paid sick leave and social security – was prominently highlighted. With wages linked to the volume of seafood available to process, workers are made to manage uncertain working hours and fluctuating wages, which heightens the risk of debt.
Migrant workers also experience difficulty obtaining or maintaining documentation to live and work in Thailand. Due to language barriers and the time required to renew documents, many migrants find themselves in an irregular situation.
The report further highlighted gender inequality within the sector, with women migrant workers more likely to be employed in precarious workplaces, such as garages, or to work inconsistently from home. Women workers tend to earn less than men, while undertaking more care responsibilities and unpaid household work.
Based on the findings, the report issues constructive recommendations to the Royal Thai Government, anchored on its National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights. These include promoting safe, regular migration pathways in line with labour market needs, ensuring social protection coverage for migrant workers, and taking a gender-responsive approach to advancing decent work.
Meanwhile, recommendations issued to the private sector include identifying the risks faced by migrant workers in local supply chains, improving wage levels, and enhancing access to remediation.
“I am confident that that these recommendations will build on the momentum for action we are already seeing from stakeholders. As highlighted by the report, protecting the rights of all migrant workers requires strong collaboration,” expressed Ms Lasota. “IOM remains committed to supporting the government and partners to ensure the orderly and humane management of migration.”