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ABN Amro using algorithms to trace possible workforce exploitation

ABN Amro says it has passed on information about seven companies it thinks may be exploiting their workforce in the Netherlands to social affairs ministry inspectors. The bank used an algorithm to check the bank account patterns against a list of 26 potential indicators which could mean workers are being exploited and underpaid.


Exploitation is considered to be a form of human trafficking because workers are often totally dependent on their employer or have been forced to hand over their passports. Banks often cooperate with investigations at the ministry’s request, but ABN Amro is now acting on its own initiative. ‘We are looking in our systems to see if we can recognise victims of human trafficking or people who are being exploited,’ said Maria Anne van Dijk, of the bank’s human rights department.  One indicator is that a large number of people of the same sex are shown as living at the same address. ‘This could be a sign that they are living in a limited space,’ she said. Another sign could be that people withdraw all their (minimum wage) income from their bank account immediately after it has been paid in. Victims of exploitation and trafficking are often not given control of their cash but have to have a bank account by law. It is unclear, as yet, if any of the potential cases reported by ABN Amro will lead to prosecution.


Earlier this year the Dutch government said the way in which migrant workers are being exploited by some employers and staffing agencies in the Netherlands is unacceptable and damaging the country’s reputation. The measures the government now plans to take include tougher checks on staffing agencies, better information in countries of origin about worker rights and better registration systems for migrant workers. Language lessons and housing projects are also an option, the ministers said.

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