By Tim De Meyer, Director, ILO Country Office for China and Mongolia, 2 March 2015
I spent some 12 years promoting international labour standards in East and South East Asia. On many occasions, I was asked whether forced labour and exploitation are the same and, if not, what the difference is between the two concepts. The question is a pertinent one. It arises, for example, from the definition of “trafficking in persons” in the UNTOC Palermo Protocol, which suggests that exploitation encompasses many more situations than only forced labour: “Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs”.
One may begin to understand exploitation by accepting that, to a degree, exploitation is a legitimate part of any market economy trading goods and services – including labour. Market economies can ...