KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia has inched closer towards eradicating forced labour after it formally ratified the International Labour Organisation (ILO) known as Protocol 29 (P29).
Human Resources Minister Datuk S. Saravanan described it as a historic moment for Malaysia.
“We will be the fifth country in the Asia Pacific to ratify P29 and the second country in Asean alongside Vietnam,” he said in a telephone interview from Geneva, Switzerland early Tuesday (March 22) morning.
Saravanan said the ratifications “will pave the way forward in advancing social justice and promoting decent work in the country.”
The ratification of P29 will be regarded as an official move by Malaysia to fight forced labour on an international level and it would mean that effective measures will be taken to prevent forced labour, protect victims and ensure their access to justice.
Under the ILO definitions of forced labour, it specifies as “all work of service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily.”
Saravanan said Malaysia believed that “forced labour is an infringement of human rights and upholds the principle that human sufferings should not be tolerated or compromised, particularly in terms of labour.”
He said Malaysia had strengthened its collaboration with various stakeholders including the source countries for migrant workers by way of bilateral agreements” including Bangladesh, Indonesia and Vietnam.
“We have also foster strategic partnerships with the United States and United Kingdom to join forces to address forced labour.”
Saravanan said the last time Malaysia ratified an ILO convention was more than five years ago on minimum wage.
“Since then, Malaysia has undergone progressive improvement when it comes to minimum wage, in which I am pleased to share that Malaysia has announced an increment of 25 percent of the previous minimum wage,” he said
Saravanan said he met ILO director-general Guy Ryder and the ILO regional director for Asia and the Pacific, Chihoko Asada Miyakawa, to discuss labour issues especially on fundamental principles and rights at work including forced labour.
Aside from ratifying P29, Malaysia had also become a Pathfinder country under the SDG Alliance 8.7 – a global alliance to accelerate efforts to eradicate forced labour, modern slavery and child labour around the world.
Malaysia’s issues of forced labour and treatment of workers, especially foreign workers, has put the country in a spot particularly in the annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report.
Last November, Malaysia had also launched its first ever National Action Plan to combat forced labour.