Tuesday 02 June 2020

ABN Amro uses algorithms to trace possible workforce exploitation

worker amid plants

Agriculture is prone to exploitation. Photo: Depositphotos.com

ABN Amro has passed on information about seven companies it thinks may be exploiting their workforce to social affairs ministry inspectors, RTLZ said at the weekend.

The bank used an algorithm to check bank account patterns against a list of 26 potential indicators which could mean workers are being exploited and underpaid, the broadcaster said.

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,’ Maria Anne van Dijk, of the bank’s human rights department, told RTLZ.

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.


In June the 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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