Stopping Exploitation through Accessible Services (SEAS) of Change:
Into the Light
Social and gender norms, attitudes, and behavior and their effect on Cambodian migrant women’s access to opportunities, training and decent work in the Thai fishing sector
The Fishing Industry in Thailand is heavily reliant on migrant labor. Fish exports were pegged at 6.6 Billion USD in 2014 and has employed more than 600,000 people, 302,000 of which were registered migrant workers (ILO, 2018). In 2017, the UN Migration Agency estimates over 32 million international migrants to be around 15 and 24 years old. Half of them migrated from developing countries, and majority (36%) came from Asia. Even with this data, little is known about the experiences of young female migrants, who find themselves in the global fishing supply chain.
Plan International conducted a study, “Into the Light: Young Female Migrant workers in Thailand’s Seafood Sector and their access to decent work” to:
i. illustrate the socioeconomic situation of Cambodian girls and young women in source communities in Cambodia, and in destination communities and the fishing industry in Thailand;
ii. identify relevant gender roles, norms and stereotypes that affect young Cambodian women’s decision to migrate, and access education, training and decent work opportunities in both countries; and
iii. provide programmatic and advocacy recommendations to enhance the economic advancement, and specifically, young women’s access to decent work in the fishing industry.
Qualitative data were collected through Key Informant Interviews (KIIs) in source and destination countries. Field research were carried out inRayong and Trat in Thailand where migrants work in the fishing sector, and Prey Veng in Cambodia where nearly half of the migrant respondents came from. Key informants included the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training in Cambodia; volunteers in Thailand; village leaders, NGO and CSO staff and school officials in both countries.
The research confirmed that economic migration resulted from the lack of opportunities and the need for supplementary sources of income for the family. In Thailand, women played dual roles as income-provider and caregivers of the family since male family members were at sea and provided income seasonally. In spite of this, women had few opportunities to increase their income in Thailand due to gender stereotypes prevalent in the industry. Women are excluded from offshore and industrial fishing, and were often relegated to after-net activities which comprised of low-paying and informal work. This translated to a lack of recognition of women’s contribution to the industry and family, and consequently, discussions and relevant decision-making processes. In addition, rampant and prevailing norms and biases, gender-based violence and discrimination effectively impedes women from fully participating in formal economic activities in the fishing industry, which exacerbates their vulnerability to exploitation since legal status is exclusively tied to formal work.
• In order to foster an enabling environment for migrant women workers in the fishing supply chain, the following ‘asks’ have been recommended for advocacy efforts to focus on: Developing and working with the private sector to drive the business case for investing on women in the fishing sector;
• Garnering investments and support for skills development training and the successful transition of young women into formal employment in the fishing sector;
• Working with governments to support and enable young migrant women to obtain legal status in destination countries; and
• Building the capacity of civil society organizations, communities, and women and men to champion gender equality and challenge prevailing gender norms and stereotypes in the fishing sector.