Modern slavery is commonplace in Southeast Asia. For instance, in Cambodia many farmers fall into debt because their crops fail and they then end up in brick kilns. They have no hope of breaking out of the spiral of debt. Forced and child labour are consequences of debt bondage. Solidar Suisse supports former farmers by providing training and advice.
Farmers in Cambodia are often particularly hard hit by climate change. Harvests fail to materialise and are destroyed because the monsoon arrives too early, too late, or the rain is too heavy or too weak. Farmers are forced into debt in order to buy new food and seeds and, with every failed harvest, they fall deeper into debt. Factory owners offer to take on their debt and often offer better repayment terms. Many farmers take up the offer and end up in one of the country’s many brick kilns.
Wages in Cambodias brick kilns are very low. Most workers have neither an employment contract nor social security. Most must get their whole family involved, including the children, in order to earn a living. Despite this, they have no hope of breaking out of the spiral of debt, because workers have toask for more money from the factory owners for every medical consultation or unforeseen expenditure.
As a result, their debt burden increases and the vicious circle of debt bondage, dependency, child and forced labour becomes ever harder to break.
This is the percentage of people living below the national poverty line.
Solidar Suisse works with the construction union BWTUC to combat child and forced labour. Independent trade unions are strongly impeded by the state and therefore the union has to limit its activities to training, advice and advocacy. BWTUC informs workers of their rights, provides them with legal support and advises them on how best to pursue their efforts to find a better life. For example, the BWTUC supports workers who are fighting in the courts for higher wages, better working conditions and for their debt to be renegotiated. It also helps numerous families to collate their debts in order reduce their vulnerability to arbitrariness.
«We only earn enough for our basic needs. I had to borrow money from our employer when my husband got sick. When he died shortly after, I couldn’t even afford a coffin.»
Better access to health care
The project is currently in the pilot stage and is being expanded. To date, the union has managed to attract new members in four brick factories, where the workers and factory owners are now registered with the national social security agency. This provides them with better access to health care.
Donations for people in Cambodia
With your donation you are supporting families and people who work as modern slaves in the brick kilns of Cambodia.