Worker exploitation is not an isolated or marginal phenomenon. But despite its pervasiveness in everyday life, severe labour exploitation and its adverse effects on third-country nationals and EU citizens - as workers, but also as consumers - have to date not received much attention from researchers.
The extensive fieldwork and desk research carried out by FRA for the report is the first to look comprehensively into various criminal forms of severe labour exploitation of workers who move from one EU Member State to another or from a third country. It aims to fill the knowledge gap, thus challenging the current climate of implicit acceptance of severe labour exploitation.
The report identifies risk factors contributing to such exploitation and discusses means of improving the situation. It highlights the challenges faced by EU institutions and Member States in making the right of workers who have moved within or into the EU to decent working conditions a reality. It aims to support them in preventing severe labour exploitation, monitoring situations where severe labour exploitation occurs and making victims’ right to have access to justice a reality.
An EU-level consensus is needed which states that severe labour exploitation is unacceptable and that all workers are entitled to the effective protection of their rights. If the EU and its Member States are serious about maintaining national and international labour standards, accepting systemic labour exploitation is not an option.
Find out more about FRA research on severe labour exploitation in the EU:
These country reports constitute the background information for the 2015 FRA report ‘Severe labour exploitation: workers moving within or into the European Union’. The content of the country reports was prepared under contract by the FRA’s research network - FRANET. The information contained in the FRA comparative report draws on these country reports from 21 EU Member States. The 2015 FRA report was drafted and finalised by FRA.
Publication date: 06 August 2015
Country report - Severe labour exploitation - Austria
report is the EU Fundamental Rights Agency’s fourth on the topic of severe labour exploitation. Based
on interviews with 237 exploited workers, it paints a bleak picture of severe exploitation and abuse. The
workers include both people who came to the EU, and EU nationals who moved to another EU country. They
were active in diverse sectors, and their legal status also varied.
Growing global efforts to encourage responsible business conduct that respects human rights include steps to ensure access to effective remedies when breaches occur. In 2017, the European Commission asked the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) to collect evidence on such access in the EU Member States, with the ultimate goal of identifying the EU actions most needed in this field. FRA’s resulting research involved two phases: desk research on different incidents of abuse; and interview-based fieldwork on professionals’ views on the availability and effectiveness of different complaint avenues.
Worker exploitation is not an isolated or marginal phenomenon. But despite its pervasiveness
in everyday life, severe labour exploitation and its adverse effects on third-country nationals
and EU citizens - as workers, but also as consumers - have to date not received much
attention from researchers. This report identifies risk factors contributing to such exploitation and
discusses means of improving the situation and highlights the challenges EU institutions and
Member States face in making the right of workers who have moved within or into the EU
to decent working conditions a reality.
Severe labour exploitation is widespread across the European Union. While workplace inspections can help counter this phenomenon, they need to be strengthened to do so effectively. Based on interviews and focus group discussions with almost 240 exploited workers active in diverse economic sectors, this report provides important evidence on how unscrupulous employers manipulate and undermine inspections, and on what can be done to counteract such efforts.