The FINANCIAL — The International Labor Organization (ILO) says the Government of Uzbekistan is making progress in reforms to address risks of forced labor in its cotton industry. In a report released on February 1, following its independent monitoring of the 2016 cotton harvest season, the ILO concludes organized child labor is now socially unacceptable in Uzbekistan and the practice has been phased out.
“The unacceptability of child labour is recognized by all sections of society: authorities, teachers, specialists, farmers, parents and children themselves. Uzbekistan has phased-out organized child labor.” ILO Report
The ILO report says that Uzbekistan continues to implement action plans to reduce the risks of forced labor that are influencing the context of the annual large-scale cotton harvest. It also points to improved public awareness of prohibited labor practices due to a nationwide communications campaign that included: more than 800 banners, 44 thousand posters, 100 thousand leaflets, TV, radio and text messages during the harvest in September – October 2016.
“Improving labor practices and reforming and modernizing agriculture is a long-term process, and we remain committed to helping Uzbekistan transform its agriculture sector into an important source of growth, higher incomes, and quality jobs for the people,” said Lilia Burunciuc, World Bank Regional Director for Central Asia.
Government projects in Uzbekistan, with financing from the World Bank, are designed to help the country transition away from cotton and reduce risks of forced labor through improving labor practices, increasing mechanization, and diversifying agriculture to more profitable crops that are less labor intensive.
ILO monitored the implementation of government commitments and measures against child and forced labor in Uzbekistan and reported that “no incidences of child and forced labor were identified with regard to World Bank-supported agriculture, water, and education projects.”
The ILO report reminds that forced labor remains a risk for some categories of people, including students, staff of educational and medical facilities and government employees. The monitoring concluded, among other things, that further steps are required to remove the risks of forced adult labor, and noted that the existence of such risks has been recognized by the Government of Uzbekistan. The Government continues to make policy improvements aimed at reducing risks of undesirable labor practices.
Even though organized child labor has been in practice phased out, both the World Bank and the ILO recommend a high level of vigilance to ensure ongoing efficacy of measures against child labor in the country, especially for 16-17 year-old students.
The ILO has also noted progress in the functioning of the national feedback mechanisms established by both the Federation of Trade Unions and Ministry of Labor. These mechanisms include call-in centers that allow citizens to report concerns about labor practices in the country. The positive changes include an appeal process for citizens contacting the call centers.
“Reforms since last year have incorporated some international best practice principles into the Mechanisms. Effectiveness will require generating further public confidence in using the Feedback Mechanisms and clarity over their respective roles.” ILO Report.
Following the most recent harvest, the ILO and World Bank have agreed to extend their co-operation in Uzbekistan for another two years.