Focus group discussion with employers in agriculture and construction sectors on workers’ accommodation
Employers in agriculture and construction sectors to provide better accommodation for women migrant workers in Thailand, ensuring the accommodation free from violence and harassment.
Chonburi, Thailand - The Employers’ focus group meeting for agriculture and construction sectors was organized on 29 and 30 August 2022. The focus group discussion, which was participated by 24 employers from agriculture sector from Chonburi and Rayong provinces, was conducted in partnership between the Employers’ Confederation of Thailand (ECOT) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) through the Safe and Fair programme.
Access to housing for migrant workers is related to the country of destination’s regulations on entry and stay, as well as to the status and remuneration afforded to their work. In their search for accommodation in the country of destination, migrant workers have to engage with a different regulatory system, often in a different language, and navigate as non-citizens with no proof of income or rental history in the country. Inadequate housing for migrant workers has been a feature of the global housing crisis for years (Open Society Foundations 2020). The isolation of accommodation for migrant workers in the agricultural and plantation sectors is a factor in violence and other crimes against migrants when they occur. Migrant workers have reported using their phones to monitor each other’s safety when working at night, and also noted that they are not comfortable reporting incidents to their employer (Mekong Migration Network 2020) In an attempt to resolve such issues in Thailand, the ILO, through Safe and Fair Programme, in collaboration with ECOT, held the discussions with employers in agriculture and construction sectors.
During the discussion, Mr Nilim Baruah, ILO Senior Regional Labour Migration Specialist, presented the ILO Recommendation 115 on Workers’ Accommodation, 1961 (No. 115) and a brief of the ILO report “Home truths: Access to adequate housing for migrant workers in the ASEAN region.” The reports show that conditions of housing for migrant workers can be immensely improved to follow the international standard.
“Workers’ accommodation is central to workers’ health and safety including being safe from violence and harassment. According to the ILO report on such issue, it was found that so much more can be improved, for instance, Thailand has no legislation addressing migrant worker housing. Housing policy is instead set through a guideline with no penalty for non-compliance,” said Mr Baruah.
Meanwhile, Ms Siriwan Romchatthong, the Secretary General of ECOT provided the background of the laws and regulations in Thailand related to workers’ housing. As migrant workers mostly work in the agriculture and construction sectors while the living conditions are known to be tough in such sectors. The two sectors were used as examples to highlight the current housing conditions in Thailand.
The discussion found that a majority of the employers provided free accommodation to their workers, including migrant workers and paid for the utility’s bills. Workers are also paid higher than minimum wages. Despite these benefits provided for the workers, the employers in the agriculture sector experience significant shortage of workers. The extension of the period for regularisation undocumented workers and expedition of the process of registration have been requested by almost all the employers who were presence at the group discussion.
On the second day of the meeting, 16 employers in the construction sector attended the meeting, representing medium to large corporations. The employers shared the conditions of their workers’ housing. However, most construction companies have sub-contractors and the conditions of the workers’ housing of the sub-contractor is said to be challenging to control.
The discussion resulted in the future drafting of recommendations for the government to assist employers to provide better accommodation for workers. The ILO, in collaboration with ECOT, will subsequently publish a guideline for employers- provided accommodation.
Ms Siriwan Romchatthong, Secretary General of ECOT said “We are here today to listen to groups of employers in the agriculture and construction sectors on what is required to assist employers in order to provide better workers’ accommodation. We hope to draft a guideline for employers in the agriculture and construction sectors so that the living conditions of workers, particularly migrant workers, are improved.”