The US Department of Labor has published two reports on the situation with forced labor in the world. According to the Embassy of Uzbekistan, in the report on the worst forms of child labor (TDA Report), for the first time since 2011, Uzbekistan has been classified in the best category of “significant advancement” in terms of the effectiveness of efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor.
Since 2011, Uzbekistan has been assigned to the 4th category, when there was no “adoption by the state of any significant efforts to eradicate child labor.” In 2018, by the decision of the U.S. Department, Uzbekistan was immediately transferred to the 2nd category with “moderate advancement”.
According to the report this year, out of 131 countries, Uzbekistan was among only 9 countries that made “significant advancement”. The assessment is based on the existence of laws and regulations prohibiting the worst forms of child labour, law enforcement and institutional mechanisms for handling complaints and investigating such violations, the implementation of social programs to prevent the involvement of children in the worst forms of child labour, as well as the effectiveness of state policy in this direction.
Thus, the report emphasized that the assignment of this status to the country became possible due to the establishment of criminal liability for “commercial sexual exploitation of children” in full compliance with international standards and the introduction of amendments to the Code of Administrative Liability and the Criminal Code aimed at toughening the punishment for forced and child abuse. The report also welcomes the signing of the new Decent Work Country Program 2021-2025, the evaluation of complaints about child labor in silk production, and the enforcement of child and forced labor bans across the board.
“Uzbekistan is truly becoming a model country that can achieve impressive progress in a short period of time,” said Marcia Eugenio, head of the US Department of Labor's Office of Child and Forced Labor and Human Trafficking (ILAB).
Given Uzbekistan's achievements in the complete eradication of systematic forced labor, the US Department of Labor also announced the exclusion of cotton produced in Uzbekistan from the so-called "List of goods produced using child and forced labor" in another report of the US department. This decision cancels formal restrictions on the import of cotton produced in Uzbekistan and products from it into the United States, thereby opening up new opportunities for the export of domestic textile products.
Presenting this report, Deputy Secretary of Labor Thea Lee specifically noted the unprecedented nature of progress in Uzbekistan.
“In 2021, we have seen unprecedented progress. I will give a couple of examples. Uzbek cotton is excluded from the list of goods produced using forced labor. This decision is due to the fact that Uzbekistan has indeed taken some important steps and made significant progress. This year, the government eradicated systematic forced labor in the cotton sector, abolished the system based on state control of the cotton harvest, and increased penalties for the use of coercion in hiring workers. Given the progress, we have removed Uzbek cotton from our list of commodities produced by forced labor. We know that much remains to be done, especially with regard to freedom of association and independent monitoring. Therefore, we will continue to interact in this department to maintain the progress made,” said Thea Li.
According to the report, the reasons for excluding Uzbek cotton from this list are due to “significant changes in the cotton industry in Uzbekistan since 2017, when President Mirziyoyev began to promote economic reforms, positioning the country as a destination for foreign investors.”
The document separately notes that the government continues its course towards mechanization of the entire production cycle, reducing the need for the use of labor. “The reduction in cases of forced labor is the result of a concerted government effort to eliminate forced labor through the abolition of compulsory cotton picking and the introduction of a new policy that prohibits coercion in the hiring of workers and provides for strict penalties for such violations.”
Separately, a significant increase in the minimum payment for cotton picking, the establishment of the practice of collective bargaining between workers and employers without government intervention is stated.
“Government efforts, public awareness and sectoral changes have made significant progress in reducing forced labor and creating better conditions for workers while stimulating economic growth,” the report emphasizes.