CHENNAI: Malaysia has the most restrictive laws on women migrant workers, with many preferring to avoid deportation by working illegally, ignoring abuse and labour law violations, Reuters reports quoting a new global study on female workers.
The report, released by an alliance of companies, universities and civil society organisations, cites the requirement of female migrant workers to take a pregnancy test prior to departure from their home country, and on a yearly basis thereafter.
The Fair Labor Association (FLA) says a migrant working in a Malaysian factory found to be pregnant is immediately deported at her own expense. To avoid deportation, many enter the informal workforce where labour laws are often ignored and abuse is common.
“If you don’t have money to pay for an abortion or to break your contract, and you cannot go home, then what else can you do?” the report, titled “Triple Discrimination: Woman, Pregnant and Migrant”, quoted a worker in Malaysia as saying.
FLA also called for an end to “pregnancy discrimination”, and urged countries to scrap laws that allow or encourage pregnancy tests and the use of contraception as a condition of employment.
There are more than 122 million women working outside their home countries globally, the report states. Many of them find factory jobs in Asian nations like Taiwan, Thailand and Malaysia.
Migrant workers in these countries are under tremendous pressure to finish their contracts so they can continue to financially support their families back home, campaigners say.
While Taiwan bans pregnancy testing and prohibits employers from terminating a pregnant worker, it provides no legal status for their children.
Workers are therefore forced to choose between having abortions, going home, or even abandoning their children to keep their jobs, the report said.
In Thailand, pregnant workers from Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia are eligible for pre- and post-natal care. But they are subjected to pregnancy tests as part of a general medical exam when they apply for a work permit.
FLA also encouraged brands – including those who have committed to FLA’s code of conduct, such as Nestle and Hugo Boss – to support initiatives to protect pregnant workers.
“Our affiliates have made a commitment to not discriminate against women who want to become pregnant or who are pregnant,” said Sharon Waxman of the FLA, as quoted by Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“It’s time for the laws of these important manufacturing countries to catch up,” she said in a statement.