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Although the experts interviewed by FRA reported that they regularly note cases of severe labour exploitation, offenders are seldom convicted. There is a system of impunity that rests on three pillars: a fragmentation of criminal law provisions, a lack of monitoring (in particular a lack of inspections from labour inspectorates), and a lack of proactive police investigations.

Building on its 2015 report, the Fundamental Rights Agency will continue its research in 2017 by carrying out face-to-face interviews with foreign workers in the EU who have been exploited for their labour. This research will fill a significant gap in research on the subject, and will provide legislators, policy makers and those responsible for combating severe labour exploitation at EU and national level with the evidence necessary to further develop effective measures to counter severe labour exploitation.

Moving on to discuss the Roma, Michael O’Flaherty presented new data from the Fundamental Rights Agency’s survey of Roma across nine EU Member States, which will be published at the end of this month. He emphasised that the Roma employment rate is much lower than among the general population, while the gap between young Roma not in employment, education or training and their peers around the EU is still larger.

In closing, the Director pointed out that in the area of disability, the EU has a disability employment gap of some 23 percentage points, with only 48% of people with impairments in employment. This persistently large gap shows the need for more systematic and ambitious action on the part of the EU and its Member States.

Following his remarks, the Director had a constructive exchange of views with members of the Committee. The MEPs present expressed a strong interest in the issue of severe labour exploitation, and stressed the need to put social and economic rights higher up the EU agenda. Many voiced the opinion that EU Member States need to be more active in tackling labour exploitation by increasing transnational cooperation in this area.

Watch the Director's remarks: