Institutional investors representing more than $3 trillion in assets are calling on global companies operating in the Persian Gulf to safeguard migrant workers amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The investors, led by CCLA, which runs £11 billion ($14.1 billion) in assets for charities and religious organizations, have written to 54 companies that have business operations in Gulf nations to request details about how they are protecting migrant workers.
The group is responding to recent reports that have identified how migrant workers in the region have been coerced into paying fees to agents and middlemen as part of recruitment processes for roles that support major international businesses, a news release said. Paying recruitment fees is often only possible by taking out excessive loans or signing over assets and property, resulting in "debt bondage." The group is concerned this puts such migrant workers at high risk of forced labor and modern-day slavery.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to many migrant workers losing their jobs or their roles being revoked. Migrant workers account for about 50% of the population in Gulf nations and in some of the countries represent up to 90% of the workforce.
The investor letter focuses on high-risk sectors including hospitality, construction, and oil and gas. Investors also recognize that, given the complicated nature of migrant worker recruitment supply chains and labor outsourcing, many of these multinational companies may not be aware of the risks in the region.