Foreign migrants working in Malaysian factories are highly vulnerable to exploitation. Transparentem has found that migrants from across Asia often pay recruitment fees in both their home countries and Malaysia to secure low-paying jobs. These fees can lead to paralyzing debt burdens for the workers. In addition to recruitment fees, migrant workers in Malaysia face a host of other challenges, including deceptive recruitment, poor living conditions, and excessive overtime.

Transparentem has documented the plight of these migrant workers in two investigations since 2016. We used our findings to urge manufacturers and buyers to remediate exploitative working conditions and provide material relief to the vulnerable populations harmed by them. To date, suppliers have returned 1,600 previously withheld passports; and have distributed or committed nearly $3 million (with some buyers contributing) to reimburse excessive recruitment fees.

Our work in Malaysia also spurred the creation of an industry-wide initiative to improve worker recruitment practices: the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) and Fair Labor Association (FLA) Apparel & Footwear Industry Commitment to Responsible Recruitment. The initiative requires signatories to incorporate into their social compliance standards language that ensures no worker pays for their job; that workers retain control of identity documents and have freedom of movement; and that workers are accurately told the basic terms of employment before leaving home.

Our Work in Malaysia

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Transparentem’s Malaysia Work in the News

Supply chain audit deception ‘common’ – report
21 October 2021
Audit deception is common in global apparel supply chains according to a new report from...
Migrant Workers in Malaysia’s Garment Sector Face Severe Exploitation
Sourcing Journal
5 October 2021
On Sept. 23, the Malaysian immigration department arrested a Bangladeshi garment factory owner, along with...
Mind the Gap: Migrant Workers Need Respect for Rights, Not Commitments on Paper
12 April 2021
In spring 2018, Transparentem, an NGO focused on investigating labor rights abuses, approached apparel companies...
A Close Look at a Fashion Supply Chain Is Not Pretty
The New York Times
28 July 2020
TAL Apparel is one of the most powerful companies in the global fashion supply chain...
Fashion Transparency Index 2020 Edition
Fashion Revolution
22 April 2020
In Malaysia, Transparentem's multi-year investigation identified endemic labour rights abuses of migrant workers in five...
Human Rights Due Diligence in Malaysia’s Manufacturing Sector
Ethical Trading Initiative
17 December 2019
An investigation by non-profit Transparentem found serious labour abuses at five apparel factories in Malaysia,...
Breaking The Chain
29 October 2019
It’s difficult to face the reality that there are 40 million people living in slavery...
23 Companies Part of Transparentem Forced Labor Investigation
19 July 2019
Benjamin Skinner discusses Transparentem on MSNBC...
Buyers Act on Discreet Approach to Malaysia Labour Abuses
4 July 2019
Buyers have taken action in Malaysia after an 18-month investigation conducted by non-profit Transparentem uncovered...
Forced Labour Investigation Drives Change
Ecotextile News
28 June 2019
An investigation conducted into the working conditions of Malaysian garment workers by US NGO Transparentem...
Transparentem takes the lid off on workers’ abuse in Malaysian garment factories
Apparel Resources
27 June 2019
The rising awareness amongst brands, end-users and workers notwithstanding, news of labour abuse keeps emerging...
New Report Uncovers Labor Abuses in Malaysian Clothing Factories – And Shows How Brands Should Respond
25 June 2019
Even as increasing consumer demand for consciously made clothing has retailers from Net-a-Porter to Madewell...
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