The project aims to improve workplaces and to organise and unionise workers and link them to social security schemes run by the Indian government. “A lot of the Indian workers are internal migrants from other districts who are not familiar with the local dialect and legislation. They are very vulnerable to exploitation by recruiters,” says Wannes Carlier of the Flemish department of foreign affairs’ policy division. “The purpose is to make labourers aware of their rights and bring them together in unions so that they can obtain and defend decent working conditions.”
The project especially targets people working at brick furnaces or kilns, who are most often victims of bonded labour. To begin the project, the exact labour conditions in Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh are being assessed. After an evaluation next month, the ILO and the Indian labour ministry will gradually sensitise the labourers through a dialogue with the local communities.
In 2010, the government of Flanders changed its thematic priority from the creation of employment to improving labour and environmental standards. Instead of focusing on developing countries, Flanders is financing more projects in emerging economies such as India because of their growing importance in foreign policy. The Flemish government is now also promoting sustainable work in the forestry sector of Brazil. Since starting the cooperation in 1991, Flanders has funded more than 30 ILO projects.