The construction industry has direct and often detrimental impacts on human rights, particularly in the areas of workers’ rights, community and land-rights, environmental protection (e.g. dams, large hydro-electric investments) as well as rights to life and health.
The global construction industry spending is predicted to reach $10.5 trillion by 2023, with the largest segment being residential construction. Construction that is sustainable, ethically conducted and based on innovative products and solutions is crucial to achieving Sustainable Development Goals 9 to “Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation” and Goal 11 to “Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”. These goals are particularly important given that by 2050, there will be two billion additional city dwellers. Since it relies on large numbers of low-skilled workers, it is a major provider of formal employment opportunities around the world and could play an important role in ensuring that workers’ rights are respected. This is crucial, as emerging markets account for approximately 52% of all construction activity today. [PwC report: Global construction 2025]
However, workers’ abuse, environmental damage, displacement of local communities caused by large-scale construction projects, such as those involving infrastructure development, and in some cases the threat to human life as a result of poorly constructed buildings are regularly reported. The risks and complexities inherent in the construction sector, such as, high competition, tight fixed deadlines, low profit margins (about 2%), and heavy reliance on multiple-layered sub-contracting make it a high-risk sector in terms of human rights (IHRB, June 2016). It is also often under-regulated by local governments and It is also recognised as a high-risk sector for corruption. Moreover, as a labour-intensive sector where temporary and irregular work is common, as well as low-skilled and low-waged jobs, it is a high-risk sector for forced labour. According to the ILO, Walk Free Foundation and International Organization for Migration (IOM), 18 percent of all adults in forced-labour situations are in the construction industry (Global Estimates of Global Slavery, September 2017).+ Read more
In recent years, the construction boom has attracted millions of migrant workers, primarily to the Gulf States but also to other places where large-scale events including mega-sporting events take place (e.g. Russia), to work on large-scale infrastructure projects. Many countries are undertaking or plan to undertake large infrastructure projects such as dams, ports, roads, rails, pipelines in a bid to modernise or boost economic activity. A significant number of these projects are being undertaken through the private-public-partnership (PPPs) model hence an increased role of the private sector and an added risk and opportunity for human rights given if undertaken in line with human rights based approach. In a 2016 survey of 100 construction companies in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates by the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC)only 39% of companies surveyed had publically available human rights commitments. The BHRRC’s outreach revealed a lack of transparency and that only a handful of companies took adequate steps in areas such as recruitment, worker voice and subcontracting.
The Grenfell Tower fire tragedy of 14th June 2017, in London, that resulted in loss of life, brought to awareness the importance of respecting health and safety regulations, not only with respect to workers on the building site, but also with respect to the materials used in the construction [Grenfell Tower: Results of fire safety tests of cladding and insulation].
Specific instances have been brought before to urge corporations in the construction sector to abide by the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. In May 2015, the Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI) brought a case against the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) before the Swiss NCP, on the grounds that FIFA was involved in abuses of the rights of migrant workers in Qatar. According to BWI, such abuses were widely documented before 2010, when FIFA appointed Qatar as the host state for the 2022 World Cup, and FIFA has failed to conduct adequate and ongoing human rights due diligence following Qatar’s appointment. The NCP issued a final statement of the mediation outcome in May 2017 which was welcomed by both parties and covered many of the issues raised by BWI including, a robust system for monitoring labour conditions on the ground, grievance mechanism for workers and the establishment of an oversight body (BWI). In France, a criminal complaint was brought against Vinci Construction Grands Projects and its Qatari subsidiary over allegations of “forced labour, servitude and concealment” in its construction sites for the football World Cup in Qatar in March 2015.
Stakeholders have developed various Guidelines (e.g. Human Rights Watch, Guidelines for a Better Construction Industry in the GCC: A Code of Conduct for Construction Companies) and recommendations (e.g. both the BHRRC outreach report and BSR Working Paper on “Addressing Workers’ Rights in the Engineering and Construction Sector – Opportunities for Collaboration”) to help companies improve their human rights performance. They have also suggested a number of recommendations to improve workers’ rights in this sector. ‘Building Responsibly’, is a global engineering and construction industry initiative established to promote the rights and welfare of workers. This initiative works by developing common approaches and standards, sharing learning and tools, and engaging workers and other stakeholders on the specific challenges companies face. The Mega Sporting Events initiative by the Institute for Human Rights and Business brings together multi-stakeholders working together to address human rights issues throughout he lifecycle of large sporting events of which construction of supporting infrastructure in the host countries is major stage and often fraught with human rights concerns.
Legislative reforms, such as state-led labour law reforms can be complemented by rather than replaced by civil society efforts, or industry or company led codes of conducts. Some of these initiatives were, in fact, developed as a response to increased transparency regulations. For instance, since the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 began requiring public companies to disclose whether they have adopted a code of ethics, some companies and their associates have chosen to adopt and disclose their own code of ethics, even though compliance is only voluntary for privately held companies. See e.g. the American Subcontractors Association “Model Code of Ethics for a Construction Subcontractor”).
The construction sector is of significant importance for the achievement of sustainable development goals (SDGs) as it impacts on all three dimensions of the SDGs; economic, social and environmental. This sector can contribute to the achievement of many goals including building resilient infrastructure (SDG 9) and “making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe and sustainable” (SDG 11), and to climate change adaptation and mitigation (SDG 13). All of these SDGs have human rights dimensions. Construction can also be a hazardous sector and one that relies on many low-skilled, often migrant, workers. Thus, it also plays a crucial role in protecting workers’ rights and ensuring a safe and secure working environment compliant with international labour standards (SDG 8.8). Activities of the construction sector under all these Goals also have implications for land rights (SDGs 1.4, 2.3, 5a), where adequate due diligence is crucial to ensure adequate respect for communities’ and individual land rights.
8) Decent Work and Economic Growth
9) Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
11) Sustainable Cities and Communities
12) Responsible Consumption and Production
What National Action Plans say on Construction sector
Action point 26
Pay particular attention to the ratification of a series of ILO conventions to health and safety at work
Accorder une attention particulière à la ratification d’une série de conventions de l’OIT ayant trait à la santé et la sécurité au travail
This section includes a plan to ratify Convention No. 167 on Safety and Health in Construction. The government comments “the ratification of this Convention will be deposited in Geneva in June 2016.”
Chile’s NAP makes no reference to the construction sector.
`The Colombia NAP does not explicitly address this issue’
The Czech NAP does not make a direct reference to Construction, although the following points are relevant to the area.
Administrative courts and their opportunities to review and annul follow-up decisions [page 51]
“It is often the case that complex authorisation proceedings do not take place as a whole, but comprise a many sub-proceedings and decisions that follow up on each other and are intertwined. If one decision is annulled by a special remedy (review proceedings or an administrative action), the downstream decisions formally remain in force even though they have been robbed of their basis. One example is building permit proceedings, where the issuance of a building permit hinges on the existence of a valid zoning decision. If a court annuls the zoning decision (or even part of the land-use plan forming the basis for the issuance of the zoning decision), the building permit remains in force. This falls foul of the principle of procedural economy (the annulment must take place in a separate process, even though this is a pure formality in the overwhelming majority of cases). It is also contrary to the requirement of legal certainty (the decision remains in force and enjoys the presumption of correctness, even though it obviously needs to be annulled), and is at odds with the principle of legality (because a decision that is clearly not legal remains in force).”
Integration of authorisation proceedings [page 53]
“The lack of uniformity of provisions in administrative law is reflected negatively in the issuance of permits and opinions in particular. An investor intending to implement a large-scale plan affecting multiple areas requires numerous individual permits and opinions from various bodies. In this respect, the Czech legal system is highly fragmented. Permits are issued in accordance with laws on building …
Current state of play:
An amendment to the Building Act adopted in 2017 led to the partial interconnection of zoning proceedings, building permit proceedings, EIA procedure and several other necessary authorisation proceedings.”
The state duty to protect human rights
2.4 Planned action
Increasing the use of labour and social clauses in public contracts [page 16]
“The current labour clause threshold value of approximately DK K 37.5 million for public construction projects included by the labour clause requirement will be abolished. In the future, governmental contracting authorities (including companies that are fully owned by governmental authorities and not in competition) must use labour clauses in all public tender calls for construction projects.”
3 Expectations towards companies and support services
3.5 Support for Finnish and international organisations promoting the subject [page 29]
“In 2014, approximately EUR 17 million were spent to support the projects of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). The projects are related to matters such as rights at work, green workplaces for the construction sector, the inclusion of women in the labour market, and decent work.”
The French NAP does not make an explicit reference to the construction sector.
Objective 25.9.1: Ensure accordance between construction legislation and human rights protection standards (including standards ensuring adaptive environment for persons with disabilities).
Objective indicator: Prepared and initiated to the Parliament of Georgia project of “Georgian code of Construction and Spatial Planning”.
Activity: Initiating package of amendments in construction legislation.
Responsible agency: Human Rights Secretariat of the Administration of the Government; Ministry of Economy and sustainable development of Georgia.
No partnership agency.
Objective 25.10.1: Monitoring of the implementation of the provisions of Spatial Planning and Construction Legislation.
Objective indicator: Prepared and initiated to the Parliament of Georgia project of “Georgian Code of Spatial Planning and Construction”.
Activity: Initiating respective legislative amendments.
Responsible agency: Ministry of Economy and sustainable development of Georgia.
No partnership agency.
The German NAP does not make a direct reference to construction.
The Irish NAP makes no direct reference to the construction sector.
b) Italy and the UNGPs
“The NAP (…) introduces limited objectives and actions, with reference to the national context translated into the following priorities:
The fight against caporalato (especially in the agricultural and construction sectors) and forms of exploitation, forced labour, child labour, slavery and irregular work, with particular attention to migrants and victims of trafficking” (p. 10)
c) National Priorities
“6. Strengthening of legislative and policy measures relating to the prevention an combating of the phenomenon of ‘caporalato’ (especially in the agricultural and construction sectors).” (p. 11)
ANNEX 1 – Accountability Grid and Assessment Tools for the Implementation of the NAP
“14. Update the information on the current legislative framework to combat illegal work and labour exploitation in the agricultural, construction, manufacturing and service sectors.” (p. 63)
Chapter 2. Action Plan
2. Areas of the NAP
(2) Measures of the Government as an Actor regarding State Duty to Protect Human Rights
A. Public Procurement
(Existing framework/Measures taken）
…, the revision of the Act on Promoting Quality Assurance in Public Works (Act No. 18 of 2005) in 2019 set forth the obligations of the commissioning entity, such as setting appropriate periods for construction projects and ensuring that they are allocated evenly throughout the year as opposed to being concentrated in the same period. The revision also included a new requirement for a wide range of surveys regarding public works to be carried out. In addition to this, the Construction Business Act (Act No. 100 of 1949) and the Act for Promoting Proper Tendering and Contracting for Public Works (Act No. 127 of 2000) were revised in 2019 to promote work style reform in the construction industry, including redressing long working hours (e.g. appropriate construction period) and improvement of treatment of workers at construction sites.
(Future measures planned）
Thoroughly implement procurement rules relevant to business and human rights, including grievance procedures (initiatives based on Act on Priority Procurement Promotion for Persons with Disabilities, initiatives related to public procurement based on Article 24 of the Women’s Participation Act, and initiatives concerning exclusion of organized crime groups)
- Continue to promote measures to exclude organized crime groups from public works, etc in accordance with the Initiative on Exclusion of Organized Crime Groups from Public Works, etc. (Agreement by the Working Team on Comprehensive Measures, Including the Control of Organized Crime Groups dated December 4, 2009). [All Ministries]
- Continue to promote work style reform in the construction industry to deepen understanding of the purpose of the Act on Promoting Quality Assurance in Public Works, Construction Business Act, the Act for Promoting Proper Tendering and Contracting for Public Works, and the guidelines for these acts. [Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism]
The Kenya NAP makes no reference to the Construction sector
The Lithuanian NAP makes no reference to the construction sector.
‘Luxembourg’s NAP does not explicitly address this issue’
The 2020-22 NAP states the second edition of the National Action Plan complements the first NAP. Additional information about the first NAP can be found here.
‘The Mexico NAP does not explicitly address this issue’
The Dutch NAP makes no reference to the construction sector.
The Norwegian NAP makes no direct reference to construction.
Pakistan’s NAP does not explicitly address this issue.
CHAPTER II: THE BUSINESS AND HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION IN PERU
2017-2020 NATIONAL ACTION PLAN
Pillar I: The state’s duty to protect human rights
1. Regulations relating to business and human rights under Polish law
Occupational safety and health [page 14]
“The provision of safe and hygienic working conditions to employees is also ensured by the provisions of other laws, including the Construction Law, Atomic Law, and Geological and Mining Law.”
Pillar II: Access to remedies
3. National Labour Inspectorate (PIP): an institution that oversees business and human rights
Supervisory and inspection activities [page 47]
“The National Labour Inspectorate actively supports employers’ involvement in issues concerning safety and working conditions, as well as employee participation, both in its oversight and inspection capacity and in its preventive and promotional activities. These include seminars, conferences, and training meetings with employers involved in permanent workplace safety improvement programmes (enhanced oversight in industrial establishments, permanent inspections in construction, rail infrastructure, forestry, and mining sectors).”
2021-2024 NATIONAL ACTION PLAN
|2. Ministry of Development Funds and Regional Policy
Accessibility Plus Programme
In the years 2021-2027, initiatives launched in previous years will be continued. In order to provide architectural advice to entrepreneurs, it is planned to launch five accessibility knowledge centres at higher education institutions. The Centres’ fields of operation will concern: architecture, urban planning and construction, transport and mobility, digitalisation and communication, design and everyday objects, and health. Specialised Support Centres for Inclusive Education (SCWEW) will be established, based on special schools and institutions, to support mainstream schools and improve the quality of inclusive education. – page 8
Development of new technical and construction conditions for buildings
In connection with the amendments to the Act of 7 July 1994 – Construction Law introduced by the Act of 5 July 2018 on facilitations in the preparation and implementation of housing investments and accompanying investments (Journal of Laws item 1496) and the Act of 19 July 2019 on providing accessibility to persons with special needs (Journal of Laws item 1696), hereinafter referred to as the ‘Accessibility Act’, it is necessary to issue a new regulation specifying technical and construction conditions for buildings. These regulations should enter into force no later than 36 months from the date of entry into force of the Accessibility Act, i.e. from 20 September 2019.
Due to the significant development in the field of design and implementation of investments, it is necessary to adopt solutions that will correspond to current technologies used in the construction industry, as well as accelerate and facilitate the process of implementation of investments, while being transparent and understandable for the recipient. In addition, issuing a new regulation will render it possible to introduce changes and clarify those regulations which currently raise interpretation doubts. – page 12-13
12. Public Procurement Office
The new Public Procurement Law (Journal of Laws of 2021, items 1129 and 1598)
Article 95, according to which the contracting body shall specify in the contract notice or procurement documents for service or construction works the contract performance requirements related to employment by the economic operator or subcontractor under an employment contract of persons performing activities within the contract performance, specified by the contracting body, if the performance of these activities involves the performance of the work in a manner specified in Article 22 § 1 of the Act of 26 June 1974 – the Labour Code. – page 33
13. National Labour Inspectorate
Supervisory and inspection activities
The National Labour Inspectorate actively supports employers’ involvement in issues concerning safety and working conditions, as well as employee participation, both in its oversight and inspection capacity and in its preventive and promotional activities. These include seminars, conferences, and training meetings with employers involved in permanent workplace safety improvement programmes (enhanced oversight in industrial establishments, regular inspections in construction, rail infrastructure, forestry, and mining sectors). – page 37
The Slovenian NAP makes no reference to the construction sector.
D. Tasks for the Third NAP
Institutionalization of Human Rights Management
3. Public procurement considering social responsibility [page 5]
- Give additional 10% point on management condition mark when female·disabled friendly companies or social enterprises record construction ratio over 30% according to detailed guidelines of qualification examination on facility construction (Public Procurement guidelines)
Guiding Principle 3
“The implementation will be promoted by business and trade unions, general or sectorial, including representative organizations of social economy entities; as well as other institutions such as chambers of commerce, chambers abroad, universities, business schools, etc. of actions that should promote online training and advice and Resolution of queries, coordinated with those carried out in the application of the Spanish Strategy of Corporate Social Responsibility.”
“In accordance with the recommendations of the EU, the Government will promote information and training of SMEs and social economy entities, through all available means in business associations, and will promote the creation of sectorial forums of learning in order to discuss good practices and to reach commitments of interest for each sector.”
The Swedish NAP makes no reference to the construction sector.
2 National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights 2020-23
2.2 Pillar 2: the corporate responsibility to respect human rights
2.2.2 Operational principles: human rights due diligence
Guiding Principles 16 to 21
Measure 29: Public-private partnerships to promote respect for human rights in the value chain
The federal government supports a project to promote human rights due diligence with a view to preventing the exploitation of Syrian refugees and migrant workers in neighbouring countries (Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan). The aim is to strengthen the contribution that business enterprises make to providing decent work opportunities and combatting exploitation in the textile, agricultural and construction sectors in these countries.
III. The state duty to protect
B. Actions taken
- Promoting human rights through government procurement operations (page 8)
‘[…] the Public Construction Commission’s Procurement Evaluation Committee scoring tables for bidders include CSR indicators, such as “whether all employees have received pay increases,” “the quality of basic compensation received by procurement officers,” and “the quality of work/life balance measures.”’
This information is also covered under Appendix 4: Overview of the implementation of the state duty to protect and the access to remedy, The state duty to protect, UNGP5, Actions taken (page 44).
Appendix 1: Concrete actions taken by Taiwan to fulfill the state obligation to protect
- Government procurement (pages 25-26)
‘Article 70 of the “Government Procurement Act” stipulates that an entity conducting a procurement procedure for construction work shall stipulate the responsibility of the supplier for quality control, environmental protection, as well as workplace safety and hygiene, and shall also establish inspection procedures and standards for the major items of the construction work.
Article 70-1 of the “Government Procurement Act” stipulates that in conducting the planning or design of a construction project, an entity shall analyze the potential construction hazards with an eye to the scale and characteristics of the construction project, prepare the drawings and specifications related to safety and health in accordance with the “Occupational Safety and Health Act” and its secondary regulations, and quantify related safety and health expenditures. Such information, and the requirements of the supplier to arrange or take necessary preventive equipment or measures, shall be included in the governmental tender documentation at the bidding stage. Where an occupational accident occurs at the construction site due to lack (or poor quality) of safety and health equipment or facilities as required by regulations or contract, the supplier shall not only be punished pursuant to the “Occupational Safety and Health Act” and its secondary regulations, but shall also be dealt with according to the “Government Procurement Act” and the contractual provisions.’
3. The core content of the National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights
3.1 Action plan on labour
3.1.3 Action Plan (2019–2022)
Pillar 1: State duties in protecting (Protect)
|Responsible agencies||Time-frame (2019–2022)||Indicators (wide frame)||Compliance with National Strategy/ SDGs/UNGPs|
|11.||Human trafficking and forced labour||Consider bringing measures or labour laws which are applied to the fishery sector to be used in the supervision of labour conditions in other industrial sectors such as agriculture and construction in which many migrant workers are hired||– Royal Thai Police
– Ministry of Agriculture
– Ministry of Labour
– Ministry of Industry
|2019–2022||Number of at-risk establishments that have been examined||– National Strategy for Human Capital Development and Strengthening
– SDG 8
– UNGPs Articles 1, 3, 4, 5 and 7
3.4 Action Plan on Cross Border Investment and Multinational Enterprises
3.4.1 Overview of the situation
The National Human Rights Commission of Thailand has received complaints regarding the impact of cross-border business operations of Thai entrepreneurs, such as a Thai private company that was granted a land concession for sugarcane cultivation and established a sugar factory in Cambodia and violated the human rights of the Cambodian people. The National Human Rights Commission of Thailand and has ruled that though the company is not the action maker, the impact is considered a part of their direct responsibility in the case of affecting human rights. In the case that a private company has entered into a Memorandum of Agreement with the Port Authority of the Union of Myanmar to operate a deep-sea port project in the Dawei Special Economic Zone Project in Myanmar, the National Human Rights Commission has investigated and found that the construction of infrastructure of the project caused human rights violation to the Myanmar people.
‘Uganda’s NAP does not explicitly address this issue’
The UK 2013 NAP in the chapter on References [page 20] makes note of the Construction Sector Transparency Initiative:
The UK 2016 Updated NAP makes no direct reference to construction.
Outcome 1.1: Promoting RBC Globally
Ongoing Commitments and Initiatives [page 8]
“…The U.S. government is also actively engaged in the Business Ethics for APEC Small and Medium Enterprise Initiative, the world’s largest collective action mechanism to strengthen ethical business practices in the medical device, biopharmaceutical, and construction and engineering sectors.” – Implementing Department or Agency: State, Commerce