Caught in a trap – The story of poverty wages behind Asian shrimp sold in European supermarkets

9 April 2015

Fairfood International’s latest report exposes the unacceptably low wages and harsh labour conditions of shrimp workers working in the shrimp peeling and processing industry in Asia. These shrimp are sold by European supermarkets like Lidl, ALDI, Plus and Jumbo.

This report focuses on the abuses in the Thai shrimp industry. Thailand is one of the largest producers of tropical shrimp in the world and some of the worst transgressions and exploitation of the migrant workers were found in Thailand, where Burmese shrimp workers earn next to nothing and are bonded by debts.

Fairfood’s report Caught in a trap – The story of poverty wages behind Asian shrimp sold in European supermarkets was published on 8 April 2015 and is an initiative of Fairfood’s Shrimp project. This project has conducted research in India, Vietnam, Bangladesh Thailand and did a field study in the Samut Sakhon area in Thailand: one of the main sources of shrimp for many European supermarkets.

This report ties in with Fairfood’s Living Wage campaign, which sees a living wage – a wage sufficient for the basic needs of workers and their families, such as food, clothing, healthcare and education – as a human right.

The key issues in the report are:

  • Lidl, Plus, Jumbo and ALDI sell shrimp which are sourced from Asia;
  • The shrimp from Asia are peeled and processed by hundreds of thousands of shrimp workers in Thailand, Vietnam, India and Bangladesh who earn unacceptably low wages, which are not enough to live on;
  • The majority of workers in the Thai shrimp industry, in particular, are migrants from Burma, who have paid brokers high amounts for placements, travel, and visas to work in the industry.
  • Burmese shrimp workers in Thailand end up earning 8 Euro a day, while their costs of living are at least 12 Euros a day;
  • Their wages are further diminished by numerous deductions from their pay checks for things like work equipment, as well as debt repayments for work permit fees, visa costs or debts to brokers. As a consequence Burmese shrimp workers must rely on overtime to be able to survive; working weeks in excess of 60 hours a week are commonplace;
  • Because of their huge buying power, supermarkets have the power and influence to determine how and under what conditions the food is produced as well as what consumers buy;
  • Fairfood calls upon supermarkets to take up their responsibility and to ensure a living wage for all their workers in their supply chains.

Read the Report – ‘Caught in a trap’

Cover Shrimp Report