Digital technology offers the promise to transform the labour migration landscape and to empower workers in new and previously uncontemplated ways. However it also gives rise to a host of practical, ethical and legal challenges. Transformative Technology for Migrant Workers, released today, takes stock of the rapidly evolving landscape of digital tools that businesses, worker advocates and governments have developed to address exploitative recruitment and labour conditions. It considers the factors that contribute to (or undermine) the effectiveness of these tools, and the risks they create for workers and host organisations. The report concludes that technology’s transformative potential will only be realized through responsible and well-considered approaches to the funding, development, and implementation of platforms that respond to migrant workers’ vulnerabilities and the structural drivers of exploitation.
The report focuses in particular on the unprecedented and amplified opportunities digital technology presents for migrant worker engagement, empowerment, and justice. For instance, businesses have mobilized technology to enable them to obtain information from large numbers of workers in their supply chains about their recruitment and working conditions and identify poor practices among suppliers. Digital platforms have been built by worker organisations to connect and organize workers and enable them to share their experiences and strategies, and to take collective action for better working conditions. Worker advocates have also developed digital platforms to transform the power and information asymmetries that underpin exploitation, by enabling migrant workers to access information they need to make choices and assert their rights. Governments and civil society organizations have sought technological solutions to overcome the barriers facing migrant workers who wish to register complaints and pursue redress. In addition to examining transferrable lessons that can be learned from initiatives in each of these spaces, the report considers the ways in which the digital tools create privacy and security risks to workers and legal and other risks to platform hosts. It considers resourcing and other challenges to sustainability and scalability of digital tools, and approaches to design and implementation that ensure the tools are taken up by vulnerable workers and deliver meaningful outcomes to them.