United NationsDepartment of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

Ship to Shore Rights – Combatting Unacceptable Forms of Work in the Thai Fishing and Seafood Industry

European Commission (
Intergovernmental organization

    Reports triggered increased awareness of the serious human and labour rights abuses of the Thai fishing and seafood processing sectors. They are characterised by extremely poor working conditions in terms of earnings, social protection, physical injury, psychological and sexual abuses, and deaths. The work on the fishing vessel is hazardous, an isolated workplace with long working hours and poor wages. The working conditions of men, women, children, and many migrants, were classified as unacceptable forms of work. To respond to this situation, the project aimed to reduce forced labour, child labour and other unacceptable forms of work, and improve compliance with fundamental rights at work.


    • Strengthen the legal, policy and regulatory framework in the fishing and seafood sectors by raising labour standards and facilitating more legal migration into the sectors. • Enhance the capacity of Government officers, including the labour inspectorate, to more effectively identify and take action against forced labour and other labour rights abuses. • Improve compliance with the Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work (ILO core labour standards and help scale up an effective complaints mechanism with increased awareness and ownership across the supply chain. • Increase access to support services for workers and victims of labour abuses, including women and children, through engagement and empowerment of civil society organizations and trade unions Contributing to SDG 1.3, SDG 8.7 and 8.8, SDG 10.3, 10.4, SDG 16.2, 16.3, 16.6, 16.7

    Contribution to SDG Implementation

    1.3 improved working conditions and social protection 8.7 reformed legal framework and policies for decent work, reduced child labour and forced labour 8.8 improved working conditions with safer workplaces 10.3 reduced discrimination and progressively eliminated in particular on migrant workers. 10.4 decent wages and social protection have reduced inequalities 16.2 reduced abuse, violence and exploitation against children and all forms of child labour eliminated 16.3, 16.6, 16.7 reformed laws and policies for social dialogue, freedom of association and bargaining, access to justice and remedies

    Implementation methodologies

    The project aimed to strengthen the legal and policy framework and its application through a combination of measures including improved labour inspection, voluntary multi-stakeholder compliance initiatives, and the empowerment of workers and civil society to hold industry and government accountable. The project used the Good Labour Practices Programme (GLP) a fisheries industry improvement programme that combines the establishment of industry labour guidelines with a supportive good labour practices training programme. Special attention is given to addressing unacceptable forms of work, such as child labour and forced labour. The project supported the development and enforcement of the regulatory framework. This was complemented by voluntary compliance initiatives developed through a broader partnership of different stakeholders, fostering positive learning and practice, dispute resolution. Subcontracting to civil society organisations and trade unions was a strong component to hold the Government and industry accountable to the standards in the law and in the voluntary initiatives; it also provided much-needed services and assistance such as education and training to victims. The various components were inter-linked and mutually reinforcing. The outputs and the information generated from one have directly influenced interventions in another. During the initial project start-up phase, research were undertaken to better inform geographically targeted interventions including a mapping of civil society organizations and their capacities, and services available or to be developed. A project steering committee provided overall strategic guidance, assessed and adapted activities, analysed the conclusions and recommendations of the external evaluations.


    Ratifications of ILO Work in Fishing Convention 188 and Protocol 2014 to the Forced Labour Convention (P029). Deployment of 180 newly trained labour inspectors, rolling out of the GLP programmes by seafood-processing associations, and strengthening of workers’ voice and representation. More migrant workers entering the workforce through regular channels, and salary increases of 28% for fishers and 15% for seafood workers. Improvements in housing conditions and a perception among workers that change is moving in the right direction. Like the initial baseline survey, the endline survey used a mixed approach of qualitative and quantitative methods, with face-to-face surveys of 219 workers in fishing vessels and 251 workers in larger seafood processing plants in 11 provinces as they represent the vast majority of workers in the supply chain and have been the focus of reforms in the industry. It recommended expanding it to South-East Asian countries having export-focused of these sectors.

    Factors and Constraints

    Forced labour and unacceptable working conditions attracted attention from global media, traders, buyers and unions. The EU and the US helped the Government adopt reforms to improve fisheries management and reduce unacceptable forms of work. To measure the project results, survey data from interviewed workers was collected using tablets into secure statistical analysis software. Triangulated analysis ensured the result validity. New areas to explore: Legal frameworks applicable for homeworkers in the Thai seafood industry. Identifying changes in the seafood sourcing practices and price and how they support efforts to improve working conditions.

    Sustainability and replicability

    The 2019 independent project evaluation recommended expanding projects like Ship to Shore Rights to South-East Asian countries that have export-focused fishing and seafood sectors – chiefly, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines. The new Ship to Shore Rights SEA 4-year project started in 2020. It will build on Thailand’s achievements. It aims to promote regular and safe labour migration and decent work for all migrant workers in the fishing and seafood processing sectors in South East Asia. The collaboration with IOM and UNDP will also enable the programme to draw the UN’s collective experience in combatting human trafficking, improving recruitment practices, and ensuring access to information. In addition to Thailand, the programme will deepen engagement with: • Cambodia • Indonesia • Lao PDR • Myanmar • Philippines • Viet Nam • Other countries and organizations in South East Asia It will mainly contribute to SDG 8, SDG 10 and significantly to SDG 5, 12, 16.

    This initiative does not yet fulfil the SMART criteria.
    01 February 2016 (start date)
    31 March 2020 (date of completion)
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