How a Growing Construction Industry will Increase Labor Trafficking via the Internet

Human trafficking is a global problem that has its roots in large structures that can be complex and intricate.  With these large and complex issues at the center of discussion, smaller components and specific industries get lost in the discussion.  And one of these industries is the construction industry.  However, it is important to analyze how interrelated labor trafficking and the Internet are and how it works in relation to the construction industry.   How does the Internet lead to trafficking in this industry?  Are there ways to prevent this?  What do current and future trends in the construction industry imply regarding labor trafficking?  How interconnected is the Internet and the construction industry?  It is important to ask these questions because the Internet plays a key role in recruiting and deceiving individuals.

To discuss the Internet’s role in trafficking for labor, first, it is important to note what the construction industry looks like currently.  In a 2015 report, it was stated that the construction industries in the Middle East and Africa are expected to be the fastest growing from 2016 to 2020 and that it would overtake the Asia-Pacific region.  The report also stated that investor confidence in the Eurozone will continue to decline due to its precarious state, which implies that investment in construction projects will decrease, and that the number of jobs in the industry will decline[1].  According to a 2017 survey on the global construction industry, cost inflation in 2016 was at 3.7% while it was forecasted to be 3.5% in 2017.  This implies raising production costs, on average, across the industry and twenty-four out of forty-three markets were suffering a skills shortage in 2016.  The survey also stated that South America, the Middle East, and Africa had the lowest average hourly wage in USD: 8.1, 7.9, and 4.0 respectively.  Meanwhile, North America, Australia, and Europe had the highest average hourly wage in USD: 72.5, 56.2, and 35.4 respectively[2].  The picture that is currently forming is that the global construction industry is growing, requiring more labor, yet wages in some of the markets that will have the greatest growth are much lower than the markets that are established in the West.  It also implies that construction industries in Europe may be weaker than others and that all markets will need to compensate for increases in cost.

With a current framework for construction in place, it is important to discuss the role of the Internet and its ability to recruit workers.  According to a literature review for a report focused on recruitment and the internet, 79% of Global 500 companies recruit on the Internet and that by 2000, all Global 500 companies had, at least an internet presence through a corporate website.  The report found that two organizations that were general contractors, hired one to ten skilled labor staff using the Internet and that fifteen organizations had planned to utilize the Internet more and that four other organizations said that they would develop a budget for Internet recruiting, spending between one thousand and one hundred thousand dollars.  They also found that fifteen of the responding organizations had indicated that the Internet is a valuable recruitment tool for technical, administrative, and professional staff and eight suggested that it is a valuable tool for skilled labor[3].  This implies that the Internet is a crucial tool meant to recruit workers into the construction industry.  Since Internet recruitment was more utilized than word of mouth when it came to recruitment for technical, administrative, and professional staff, and organizations are going to invest more in recruitment, a shift toward digital recruitment is happening or has already happened.

Now that a framework regarding recruitment over the Internet and the global construction industry has been discussed, the interrelation between the two regarding human trafficking needs to be discussed.  An article discusses the numerous ways traffickers utilize the internet for various forms of trafficking.  For instance, a 19-year-old girl had responded to a modeling ad on the Internet and ended up being expected to have sex with unknown persons (her first client was an undercover officer who ended up saving her).  Another example more closely related to labor exploitation is when Italian and Polish police broke up a network that used an employment agency website as the primary recruitment tool.  There have been efforts to disrupt online trafficking, but their focus has been on sex trafficking, seemingly ignoring individuals trafficked in for labor[4].

In a report detailing the link between the internet and labor trafficking, it stated that it is easy and cheap to use the internet to create fraudulent offers and websites to deceive those who are looking for work into believing that they are replying to a genuine job.  The anonymity of the internet makes it difficult to identify who posted a fraudulent offer, especially in public areas like internet cafes and libraries.   The report also detailed that victim recruitment is increasingly taking place online and that traffickers lure jobseekers with promising advertisements for jobs placed on general advertisement sites and that they approach victims in chat rooms or through social media.  It also details several cases where the Internet lead to labor trafficking.  One case was on construction in the UAE, where workers from Romania were recruited through ads posted on the Internet by a recruitment company in Romania.  These workers had their documents confiscated and were housed in unsanitary conditions and were forced to work without pay.  Another case was regarding Romanian workers in Cyprus, where candidates were required to sign contracts in Romania with two companies in Cyprus and that upon arrival, workers had their identity documents confiscated, along with their contracts.  They were sent to work for different employers where their salaries were sent to the company owned by the recruiter from Cyprus.  They were also forced to live in unsanitary housing and worked sixteen hours a day.  There are other examples, but one last bit the report offers is what to watch out for in ads.  They suggested taking extra care when searching for jobs in areas like catering, agriculture, and construction[5].

What I am trying to showcase here is that the Internet is crucial when it comes to labor trafficking in the construction industry.  Because the Internet is a media that reaches many individuals and is being used as a tool for recruitment in construction, researchers should be looking at the connection between labor trafficking in construction and the Internet.  While many jobs like construction still rely on word of mouth, this technique can refer individuals to websites, where they can find jobs, which may lead them to being exploited.  Because the Internet offers anonymity, it is much easier for traffickers to remain hidden from investigators and they can reach several different audiences rather than being restricted to one country, or nearby countries.  A labor trafficker can reach workers in Romania or Bolivia for jobs in the UAE or China.  Their markets are no longer restricted by geography and their risk for being involved in such markets (trafficking in labor from Eastern Europe to the Middle East or Asia-Pacific region) is greatly reduced because of the Internet’s reach.  They can remain safe in their countries (maybe Romania) while setting up consumer supply chains for labor in the Middle East or Asia.

What I am further suggesting is that there will be an increase in labor trafficking due to the growth of the global construction industry.  A recent report states that the global construction market will grow by eight trillion dollars by 2030.  It also states that Europe will not recoup its lost decade and that the growth will be fueled by markets in China, US, and India[6].  As previously noted, Europe is facing a situation where they will not be able to recoup their losses following the global financial crisis and that other areas like the Middle East and China are going to grow and drive the construction market.  This kind of environment is ripe for traffickers.  With worker shortages, construction companies will look to other sources for labor, usually looking for cheap labor.  Traffickers, using the Internet, will be able to advertise good jobs in these high growth areas and could trick workers in the Eurozone into jobs where they end up exploited.  Some construction companies might engage in trafficking themselves, rather than looking to others to find them labor.  And this exploitation will be fueled by the Internet, as a means of connecting workers to traffickers, construction companies looking for cheap labor, or both, where the company works together with traffickers.  The situation might even be ripe enough for a new wave of trafficking victims, but instead of waves of sex trafficking victims, these will be victims of labor trafficking, travelling and being sent to the Middle East, India, China, and even the US, as these markets are expected to grow.  These victims will come from Europe, expecting good pay and decent accommodations, but may end up trafficked and exploited by traffickers and construction companies, who are looking to keep costs low.

The Internet is a crucial tool for both construction and labor trafficking.  It connects employers with workers who want a job, and it also can con workers into becoming trafficked.  The construction industry is expected to grow and with it, so to will labor trafficking.  While labor trafficking includes other industries like agriculture and home care, Europe may see a new wave of trafficking victims, namely, Europeans being trafficked to the Middle East, India, China, and the US for the sole purpose of construction.  Researchers must devote energy and resources to studying this connection between the Internet, labor trafficking, and construction in order to come up with good strategies that will prevent this from occurring.

Word Count- 1627

[1] PRNewswire.  (2015 Feb. 17).  Global Construction Market Worth $10.3 Trillion in 2020 (50 Largest, Most Influential Markets).  PRNewswire.  Found at https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/global-construction-market-worth-103-trillion-in-2020-50-largest-most-influential-markets-292235961.html

[2] (2017).  International Construction Market Survey 2017.  Turner and Townsend.  Found at http://www.turnerandtownsend.com/media/2389/icms-survey-2017.pdf

[3] Haas, C.T., Glover, R.W., Tucker, R.L., and Terrien, R.K. (Feb. 2001).  Impact of the Internet on the Recruitment of Skilled Labor.  The University of Texas at Austin; Austin, Texas.  Found at http://sites.utexas.edu/raymarshallcenter/files/2001/02/a_ccis_report_17.pdf

[4] Dixon, H.B. Jr. (2013).  Human Trafficking and the Internet* (*and Other Technologies, too).  The Judges’ Journal, 52(1). Found at https://www.americanbar.org/publications/judges_journal/2013/winter/human_trafficking_and_internet_and_other_technologies_too.html

[5] FINE TUNE. (N.G).  The Role of the Internet in Trafficking for Labor and Exploitation.  Found at https://www.ituc-csi.org/IMG/pdf/internet_and_labour_trafficking.pdf

[6] Robinson, G.  (N.G.).  Global Construction Market to Grow $8 trillion by 2030: driven by China, US, and India.  Global Construction Perspectives and Oxford Economics, London, United Kingdom.  Found at https://www.ice.org.uk/ICEDevelopmentWebPortal/media/Documents/News/ICE%20News/Global-Construction-press-release.pdf

 

Link to my blog-http://u.osu.edu/sodeman.2/2018/03/06/how-a-growing-construction-industry-will-increase-labor-trafficking-via-the-internet/

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