Rostrum’s Law Review | ISSN: 2321-3787



As it is a well known fact that for getting the work done we all need manpower and this is in fact the driving force for every economy. To get the economy flowing at the time of shortage of the manpower which becomes the hindrance in industrial growth, there arises the involvement of more labour from areas beyond the territorial jurisdiction and such manpower is termed as Migrant Labour.

In South Asia due to ease of travelling among countries like India and Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and cross country cultural similarities which also includes Pakistan, the work force exchange is quite common. This extra work force is also required by industry with in India itself and is fulfilled by inter state Migrant Labour.

Because of this, the stakeholders need private recruiters as third party contractors to bring the manpower required and to bridge the gap between the two. These third party contractors are not regulated by the legal authority and thus they now take advantage of their position to manipulate the situations of extra demands of lobour requirements for the industry.

When recruiting, these third parties not only exploits the labour but also get involved in the trafficking of such persons. The Industries are ready to discharge funds and the Middle Men tend to exploit this opportunity by asking hafty amounts per person but doesn’t provide the same to the recruited labourers.

The Exploitation comes in all forms like deprivation of social security, lower wages, higher workload, longer working hours, no gratuity or pension, no protection against accident, also especially in case of Women worker being subjected to Sexual Exploitation and sexual abuse .

Transnational Organized criminal are involved in these as third parties and they hire the man power from those remote villages which are under developed and whose people doesn’t have basic livelihood. These criminals are involved in trafficking of men, women and children in the garb of giving jobs.

Although many regulatory bodies are involved in every country yet, these workers are subjected to such Exploitations.

It is known fact that, South Asia is increasingly developing and this development of its economy needs higher demand of Labour force which is to be fulfilled by either the same country or the neighbouring countries. This demand is ever increasing and thus the need for Migrant Labour which are required to boost the market and economy.

By and large numbers of such unregulated third party contractors are ever increasing and they tend to exploit this opportunity to exploit the market and the personnel by ways of Smuggling Migrant Labour and getting hafty returns from Industries for recruitment.

The Scholar has tried to undertake the doctrinal research as a comprehensive study and analysis of the “Trafficking and Exploitation of Migrant Labour in South Asia – An Analysis “, and thus study both Social and Legal aspects of the topic.

The Scholar wishes to put forth new directives and rules and regulations which can be made by the countries involved and affected by the menace and collectively combat the issues of Migrant Labour, who are driving force and willingly involved in growth of the our economies.

There is a need to put an end to the social and human exploitation, degradation , under privilege, inhuman, unequal position of people who tend to give us their sweet and blood which gives us a chance to become economically strong and industrially developed and while doing so what they need is dignified livelihood, equal rights and equal status in the society.

Keywords  : Trafficking, Exploitation, Migrant, Labour, Low wages, Sexual abuse.


As we know for a country to develop industrialization is the key aspect. The economy will grow when more and more industries are established and to run them efficiently and effectively there is a never ending need of Man power which are the work force and the Engine which boost the working environment. The work force is the key to success and it is sometimes hard to procure from with in the territorial area thus, arises the need to bring in the workers from far flung areas with in the state and beyond the state.

These workers coming from far flung areas are called as “Migrant Labour “. These are not restricted to the nation but are also brought from across the country borders.

When the need is required and the scarcity demands, the Industries take the help of Middle Men for the procurement of the Labour. These Middle Men because of the needs of the Industries and need of people who are down trodden and insecure, tend to take advantage and Exploits the situation arisen.

Because of links, they manipulate the local authority and in the garb of Labour needs smuggle people. Knowing the Governmental loop holes they are able to manage such Trafficking and Exploitation of Migrant Labour.

South Asia is the region of freedom of movement and porous border so, the migration of people is more or less easy. This ease is often manipulated to traffic and exploit these workers.

Although many Legislation and Convention exist around the world, yet there is a drawback in the government machinery which is being used by such Middle Men to get such illegal activities running smoothly without being noticed.

 Trafficking of Migrant Labour

Trafficking is a grave form of violation of the Human Rights and a serious transnational crime which effects the society at large. It victimizes millions of people which are Women, Men and Children. Not only this effects the society but also the economic stability.

The brutality and injustice faced by such people is immeasurable. In the garb of livelihood, the lives, dreams, and dignity is lost and shattered to the level of irreparable damage.

South Asia comprises of countries that are source, transit and destiny for trafficked people. They are brought in and out as Migrant Labourers but are sourced into illegal activities like : child labour, prostitution, sexual Exploitation and as shameless and heinous form of crime as of Organ Removal.

Migrant Labour in South Asia are subjected to such smuggling because of the factors such as poor economic growth and condition of certain parts of the region like Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, and Afghanistan to name a few. The demand for the industry is high in the market of India. These neighbouring countries are source of cheap labour and those with similar religious, social backgrounds. The language barrier is also not a problem as such. These aspects are being manipulated by the Organized Criminal running such rackets.

Because of the socio-economic inequalities and open and porous border, the flow of the Migrant Workers becomes easier. The loop holes in the government machinery, corruption in beurocracy, weak criminal justice system are infect helpful for these Middle Men (CRIMINALS) to take advantage and opportunity to thrive.

UNODC’s Global Trafficking in person report 2016 states that about 88% of detected victims of South Asia are being trafficked domestically with in the region.[1]

The region faces increase in child and young women trafficking for the purpose of Child Bonded Labour, Domestic Servitude, Child Marriage, etc. The majority are brought in from Nepal and Bangladesh. According to the UNODC’s “Migrant Smuggling in Asia report (2015),Migrant Labour are smuggled by air with false travel documents and labour contracts to farther countries like Middle East and Europe. The young girls and boys from Nepal and Bangladesh are trafficked by road and on foot as there are open unguarded borders, so much so that many villages have common land between them and India. This is manipulated by Middle Men to bring them in for all sorts of abuse whether sexual exploitation, domestic servitude, forced labour, etc and they are delivered to the end users via unregulated and unrecognised recruitment agencies mushrooming in the Metro Cities through out India. [2]

Migrant Labourers are among the most vulnerable people which are easy targets for trafficking. Because of different levels of economic and industrial development, inequalities in social security, high demand of labour supply, etc, tend to be the main cause responsible for targeting such people by such criminals.

This is not only the case of cross boarder countries but it is also prevalent with in the single county, for example, in India itself, the migration of people is main driving force for industrial development. People from lower income strata and rural communities across the country tend to explore newer opportunities and greener pastures in order to improve their and their family’s livelihood and up bring social security for themselves. The perpetrators who are well aware of the situation of both Industries and people now exploited them and in the garb of job security brings these workers from areas like Chhattisgarh, Bihar, West Bengal, etc to more industrialised cities. [3]

A significant problem across South Asia, faced by Migrant Labour is that of Trafficking with in a country and beyond with in the region itself. The UNODC estimates that over 150000 people are being trafficked annually in South Asia with most vulnerable being women and children which makes up for 44% and 21% respectively.[4]

Exploitation of Migrant Labour

As we all know that migrant workers are those which are brought from far off places to work in all Industrial Sectors. The Industries doesn’t have enough resources so they are always in need of labour influx.

The workers brought in from all classes, gender, and ages. The machinery involved in procurement and recruitment of such labour is not direct but through some third party contractors. These contractors are Middle Men acting on Industry’s behalf and are normally unregulated by laws so, they easily exploit the market situation.

Normally Migrant Labour are needed as stop gap or when surplus needs of Industries are to be met. These Labour are normally un-skilled or semi-skilled and are unregulated and unrecognised labourers. This leads to Exploitation in the hands of the Third Party Contractors.

The Exploitation comes in all forms like Lower wages, poor health security, no social security, less or no legal rights, longer working hours, no gratuity or pension, no protection against accident, sexual abuse of the Women Gender, etc.

Migrant Labour are involved in all sorts of trades which include working as load handler, construction worker for both the government and private sector, in chemical plants, as seasonal agricultural labour, domestic servitude, to name a few. The most vulnerable being women and children as target of sexual abuse.

A total of 152 million children – 64 million girls and 88 million boys are estimated to be in child labour throughout the world. The UNICEF estimates 12% of children aged 5-14 years with 41 million being subjected to child labour with in the region of South Asia. The children are trafficked and forced into bonded labourers for brick kilns, in, mines, carpet and garment manufacturing, as domestic servitude, in MSME sectors chemical, and other manufacturing industries involving serious health hazard materials. Many of the ethnic minority groups are being trafficked and recruited as child soldiers in insurgency areas of Pakistan, Afghanistan and with in India like Naxel belt of Chhattisgarh etc.[5]

The ILO (INTERNATIONAL LABOUR ORGANISATION), has started that cases of child labour are more than what are recorded. These unrecorded cases are all in small industrial sectors most of which are in small towns or in unauthorized locations within the cities. With regards to child labour with in India, Justice Subba Rao, former Chief Justice of India, remarked., “Social justice must start with the child. Unless a soft plant is properly sustained, it has a pocket chance of multiply into a strong and useful tree. So, the first preference in the plate of Justice should be stated to the well-being of children”.[6]

Many cases have been reported and dealt with by Indian Courts as tourchbearers of progressive attitude towards Child Labour


.1. Peoples Union for Democratic Rights vs. Union of India. – barring child under 14 years in construction sector by Justice P N Bhagavathi, 1982.[7]

.2. Sheela Barse vs. Union of India. – stating that a child is a responsibility of the state and the state should take responsibility to nurture proper child care and development by controlling child labour by Justices M Venkatchaliah, S Mohan, 1994.[8]

Protection of Migrant Labour

Rights of Migrant Labour needs to be protected at all costs as they are the back bone of the developing economy and are directly responsible for the Industries to flourish.

Many International agencies have formulated regulatory mechanisms to safeguard the right of such persons. The chief agency towards this effort is UN and its organs like

UNODC (UN OFFICE on DRUGS and CRIME) – It safeguards the Migrant Labour from being trafficked.

WHO (WORLD HEALTH ORGANISATION) – It helps in establishing the health and occupational safety practice.

ILO (INTERNATIONAL LABOUR ORGANISATION) – It is the principle organization which safeguards almost all the aspects governing the definition of Migrant Labour and implementing the standards of work culture of such persons which includes : Wages, Working Hours, Occupational health and Safety, etc.

There are few Migrant Labour specific regulatory Convention :

. 1. Migration for Employment Convention (Revised) 1949:

The objective of this convention is to prevent misleading propaganda with regard to emigration and immigration.

. 2. Migrant Workers (Supplementary Provision) Convention, 1975:

The Primary purpose of this is to prosecute the author of manpower trafficking and to protect Migrant Labour from abuse. It also strives for equality in wages and treatment of Migrant Labour by destination countries.

South Asian countries individually have their own home legislation to safeguard the right of MigrantLabour., for example in India there are many laws which may be implicated to protect the Migrant Labour from Harassment and Exploitation, like :

. 1. Inter-State Migrant Workmen(Regulation of Employment and Condition of Service) Act1979:

The Primary purpose of this is to provide safety from unauthorized contractors, unregulated conditions of service, etc.

. 2. Payment of Wages Act, 1936:

The purpose of this is to ensure prompt and timely, regular payments to workers.

. 3. Minimum Wages Act, 1948:

This is the act which safeguards the Migrant Labour working in Unorganized sectors. It directs to fix a minimal amount to be paid to workers.

. 4. The Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008:

The aim of this legislation is to provide social security to workers including Migrant Labour.

Conclusion and Suggestion

The Scholar wishes to conclude by putting forth the following suggestions which will help to ensure the protection of the Migrant Labour rights and combat the issues of Migrant Labour Trafficking and Exploitation with in the region of South Asia.

There is a need to put a common transnational treaty amongst the countries in the South Asian region in a for of regional cooperation which must be guided towards open yet secure borders.

There should be a common legislative framework involving all the nations of the region as one region one nation that should have stringent yet flexible laws dealing with migration of people as labourers.

The Labour Laws of every country need to be framed in the way so that the stakeholders should be forced to work for the security and safety of the Migrant Labour or else stronger punishment be given.

There is a need to put forth new directives and rules in prevailing legislation to have a control over the Third Party Contractors as being regulated and licensed for they should not exploit the market situation and for this there is a need to guide law enforcement to act in strong manner.

The Governmental machinery should be strengthened and be free from lower levels of corruptions and red tape beurocracy, only then we can implement stricter rules and regulations and apply laws for protection and safeguard of Migrant Labour in South Asia.

[1] see@-https://www.unodc.org/South Asia/en/topics/frontpage/2009/trafficking-in-person-and-smuggling of the Migrant Labour.

[2] see@-https://www.unodc.org/South Asia/en/frontpage/2014/July/South-Asia-unodc initiatives-regional cooperation project towards human trafficking across borders.

[3] see@-https://www.aseanact.org/resources/apnea-briefs.

[4] see@-https://www.worldbank.org/en/events/30-Nov, 2023/16 days of Activism in SA.

[5] see@-https://wwww.unicef.org/rosa/what-we-do/child-protection/child-labour&exploitation.

[6] see@ – https://blog.ipleaders.in/labour-rights-and-standards-of-migrant-workers/

[7] Refer: Supreme Court of India :1982 AIR 1473,1983 SCR(1)456.

[8] Refer: Supreme Court of India :1993(3)Crimes 261 SC, JT1993(4) SC 558,1994(4) SCALE 493,(1993) 4 SCC 204,1993 Supp 1 SCR 561.

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