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How the ILO is helping to end forced labour in Uzbekistan’s cotton industry

October 13, 2017

Around one in four adults in Uzbekistan are involved with the annual cotton harvest, which takes place between September and November. Learn what the ILO is doing to prevent forced labour during the cotton harvest.

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Nearly a quarter of the adult population in Uzbekistan—over three million people—take part in the country’s cotton harvest each year. Some two thirds of them are women.

The ILO has been monitoring the cotton harvest for child labour since 2013. In 2015, it began monitoring the harvest for forced labour and child labour as part of an agreement with the World Bank.

During this period, it’s generally recognised that the systematic use of child labour in the harvest has been abolished.

And while forced labour of adults still persists, we’re seeing some very encouraging progress towards ending that as well. In September 2017 in fact, the Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev spoke before the United Nations General Assembly in New York where he pledged to end forced labour in his country and underscored his government’s engagement with the ILO.

Shortly thereafter, the Uzbek government announced that it would call back all students and civil servants presently at work in the cotton fields–a major step towards ending forced labour in that critical sector of its economy.

The ILO continues to play an important role to that end through its Third-Party Monitoring Project (TPM), which encompasses a wide range of different activities that take place across the country.

As part of the TPM Project, the ILO:

  • Engages decision makers at the highest level
  • Trains people directly involved with recruiting cotton pickers
  • Independently monitors the effectiveness of recruitment systems
  • Surveys the recruitment experience of cotton pickers
  • Raises awareness of labour rights
  • Strengthens feedback mechanisms
  • Publishes ILO findings and recommendations
  • Supports wider agricultural and labour market reforms

To learn more about how the ILO’s TPM project helps to promote jobs and protect people in Uzbekistan, read the full blog by Beate Andrees (Chief of the Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work Branch, ILO).