IOM, Fast Retailing to Map Apparel Labour Supply Chains, Uphold Migrant Workers' Rights

IOM and Fast Retailing launch initiative to promote ethical recruitment in apparel supply chains. Photo: IOM 

Tokyo Global apparel company Fast Retailing and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) have launched an initiative to study the recruitment and employment conditions of migrant workers in Fast Retailing’s supply chains.  

The project aims to clarify the situation on the ground and to develop the company’s capacity to respond to identified challenges related to the human and labour rights of migrant workers.  

The work was initiated at a joint event at the company’s Tokyo headquarters and will include engagement with suppliers based in Japan, Thailand and Malaysia. Fast Retailing’s brands include UNIQLO, GU, Theory, Helmut Lang, PLST (Plus T), Comptoir des Cotonniers, Princesse tam.tam and J Brand. 

The exploitation of migrant workers in global supply chains often begins in their home country, where they are forced to pay excessive fees to secure employment. This can create heavy indebtedness that makes it impossible for them to walk away from exploitative working conditions, according to IOM.  

IOM and Fast Retailing have joined forces to promote ethical recruitment practices and address related risks of modern slavery and human trafficking. The collaboration will include a preliminary study on recruitment practices carried out by Fast Retailing’s suppliers that employ migrant workers. They will also work together through training to embed principles and measures protecting women and men migrant workers in the company’s policies and guidelines. 


The joint project is aligned with Fast Retailing’s pledge to transform recruitment and employment practices in its supply chains, as a participant in the Fair Labour Association (FLA)/American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA) Industry Commitment to Responsible Recruitment.  

At the heart of this commitment are the principles that no worker should pay for a job; that no worker should have their passport or documents retained by an employer; and that employment contract terms and conditions must be clear, enforced and respected.  

In order to achieve this, Fast Retailing has recognized the need to work together with expert organizations to strengthen its capacity in implementing responsible recruitment and fair labour practices within its operations and supply chains. In addition to its partnership with IOM – and in consultation with FLA – it has launched other initiatives with the International Labour Organization (ILO) and UN Women in 2019. 

Veronique Rochet, Sustainability Director at Fast Retailing, said:“This project with IOM is an important step for our company and we are looking forward to make the most of this partnership to create a lasting framework that truly protects the rights of migrant workers contributing to our products.” 

Rochet added that this was in line with several efforts Fast Retailing has been making to align with the highest possible international standards governing fair labour practices, regarding which its participation in the FLA/AAFA Industry Commitment to Responsible Recruitment is a key reference point.  

She concluded, “Our Code of Conduct and other guidelines we have adopted so far already reflect this, but we look forward to continue improving our oversight and sharing our learnings with other industry partners.”  

In Asia’s apparel supply chains, migrant workers – including low-skilled women from rural areas – make up an important part of the workforce. Many of those coming to Japan, Malaysia and Thailand are vulnerable to coercive recruitment and exploitation at the hands of unverified recruiters who charge excessive recruitment fees that result in debt bondage, according to IOM Japan Chief of Mission Mio Sato. 

“This partnership between IOM and a leading Japanese company is innovative and will bring valuable insights and results. For our office in Japan, working with the Japanese private sector to find solutions to labour migration challenges, particularly in the present context when Japan is shifting towards becoming a more established destination country, is of the utmost importance,” Sato said. 

“The results of the partnership will hopefully contribute to increased awareness among Japanese businesses of international supply chains, particularly regarding the need to integrate the protection of migrant workers’ rights in business policies and practices,” she added. 

IOM’s partnership with Fast Retailing is part of its direct engagement and partnership building with businesses to address migrant worker vulnerabilities and develop sustainable solutions. It does this notably through its flagship private sector engagement initiatives: the CREST (Corporate Responsibility for Eliminating Slavery and Trafficking) and the IRIS (International Recruitment Integrity System) projects.  

For more information please contact Joaquim Torrinha at IOM Viet Nam. Email:, Tel:+842838222058.