...and the Uzbek government is not doing anything serious about it.
Despite some equivocation at the end, the ninth annual Trafficking in Persons report comes down pretty hard on Uzbekistan for its forced labor practices. Aside from being critiqued implicitly for not supporting the non-governmental trafficking victims' shelter, the Uzbeks get their hardest knocks in the report for the cotton issue. Though, the report notes, there was a governmental decree banning the practice, the government took no serious measures to eliminate it, as...
[i]n 2008, the Government of Uzbekistan maintained its strict quota system in which each province in the country is required to produce a share of the designated national cotton yield. Provincial governors were held personally responsible for ensuring that the quota was met; this pressure was passed to local officials, some of whom organized and forced school children, university students, and faculty to pick cotton to ensure the national quota was met. Uzbek farmers were unable to pay higher wages to attract a consenting workforce because the government pays the farmers below-market value for their cotton.
For the second year in a row, Uzbekistan is ranked on the "Tier 2 Watchlist," (back in 07 it had been for 2 years on Tier 3, the lowest rank). Though there don't seem to be any hard consequences that follow from a poor ranking, trying to move up in the scale (and thus become eligible for more kinds of anti-trafficking assistance?) can be motivating.
Read the whole report here: