Human exploitation and trafficking are significant risks in the construction industry because of how the industry operates: informal employment is common, as well as short-term projects, subcontracting, and the occasional lack of regulation. The authors also highlight the 2022 World Cup in Qatar and the 2019-2020 renovation of the Olympic Stadium in Helsinki as recent examples of construction workers’ exploitation. In both cases, it was migrant workers who faced higher risks of exploitation and trafficking.
The research process was small-scale, with ten interviewees predominantly from the cities of Helsinki and Turku. The authors conducted interviews in 2020 with representatives of the labour inspectorate, trade unions, the police, tax authorities, an employer group, and a human trafficking-related NGO. Many participants felt that Finland has strong protections against exploitation and trafficking. However, the participants were divided on their views about CSR and the grey economy, as well as existing legislation, and how effective it truly is in preventing exploitation and trafficking.
There are laws in place to safeguard ethical and fair working conditions in the Finnish construction industry. However, these laws are not stringent enough, as they leave the enforcement of ethical practices up to companies’ own voluntary efforts. Additionally, public sector bodies are not united on their approaches to addressing trafficking and exploitation, which can make the efforts to combat these malpractices unsystematic and volatile.
The introduction of technology and surveillance mechanisms on construction sites can help combat exploitation and trafficking. One of these mechanisms is to have workers wear an identity card with their photo and official tax number during work hours. However, these surveillance technologies can be critiqued on the grounds that they can be “(mis)used as forms of workplace control” (p. 10).
Throughout the article, the authors tease out the dynamics of public-public and public-private organisations, and their attitudes towards human trafficking and labour exploitation in the construction industry. They conclude by stating that “the necessity for public sector authorities to continue developing communication and co-operation while navigating practical challenges is going to be a crucial issue when ramping up efforts to address human trafficking in the coming years” (p. 16).
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