From 2013-2015, the Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) of the EU carried out extensive research into the nature of and responses to criminal forms of exploitation of workers* moving within or into the EU. The resulting comparative report is the first to comprehensively explore all criminal forms of labour exploitation in the EU. It also has country reports of 21 member states that help national authorities and civil society organisations fight severe forms of labour exploitation.

FRA conducted field research in 21 EU member states, including interviews and focus group discussions with professionals. It also did desk research into the legal and institutional framework of severe labour exploitation in all 28 EU member states. FRA also collected over 200 case studies.

Research findings show that while the EU has legislation prohibiting labour exploitation, workers moving within or migrating to the EU are at risk of becoming victims of severe forms of labour exploitation. The comparative report identifies risk factors contributing to such exploitation. It highlights the challenges member states face in combatting exploitation. The report discusses ways to improve the situation and above all, to strengthen victims’ access to justice.

The next phase of the project, beginning in 2016/2017, will explore the views of migrant workers who are at risk of experiencing or have experienced severe forms of labour exploitation.

Partners involved in the cooperation

FRA collected data through its multidisciplinary research network, Franet. This network consists of contractors in each member state who provide relevant data to FRA. FRA also received input from the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute, as well as from a group of experts and practitioners in the field of labour exploitation. The experts were from international organisations, labour inspectorates, civil society organisations, and EU bodies such as CEPOL, EU-OSHA and Eurofound.

What made this research successful?

Through the data collected, FRA’s research helped to fill a significant knowledge and evidence gap on the topic of labour exploitation in the EU. The resulting comparative report is the first to comprehensively explore all criminal forms of labour exploitation in the EU. It covers slavery, servitude, forced, compulsory and bonded labour, as well as particularly exploitative employment relations.

Country reports have been drawn up for 21 EU member states - all but Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Luxembourg, Romania, Slovenia and Sweden. These reports can help national authorities and civil society organisations fight severe forms of labour exploitation.

More information

Download the FRA report 'Severe labour exploitation: workers moving within or into the European Union - States' obligations and victims' rights' on the FRA website.

* ‘Criminal forms of exploitation’ is a wider concept than trafficking in human beings (THB) for labour exploitation, since it also includes particularly exploitative employment relations.

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