Slave Labor and Supply Chains

The UN describes modern slavery as the condition of people whose work “is performed involuntarily and under the menace of penalty.”  Modern slaves can be forced to work through threats of violence, through withholding of identification, through threats to family members, and also through subtler means like financial pressure or limiting movements. All told according to a recent report by the Walk Free Initiative, in 2018 there were 40.3 million people living in these conditions, mainly women. When Mauritania abolished slavery in 1981, as the last stronghold it made slavery illegal throughout the world.  One problem is how difficult it is to track down the offenses. It is part of countries with shady human rights certainly, but it is everywhere, including the US. Of these 40 plus million there are at least 16 who are part of the supply chain, meaning the people who work on the things we buy. Even if slave conditions are outlawed within manufacturing, it is difficult to enforce, to make sure products are entirely made by slave free labor. The fashion and the tech industries are two of the worst culprits. With fashion for example, we want cheap clothes, and cheap clothes can only come with cheap labor.  Some businesses are onboard, yet because products can have many parts which come from many different countries it is often difficult to know if slave working conditions were involved. Another aspect of the tragedy is that so many of those who are forced to work and/or live under these conditions are not aware they are being exploited. There are no easy answers, but one hope lies in education: Educating people about their rights, and promoting human rights education among vulnerable populations such as those of migrant workers or those likely to be in underage marriages.

If and when we can, let’s contribute to that education.

Modern Slavery–The Scope of The Problem

We all know that human trafficking is a bane, that it is a form of modern slavery. What is new according to new research by Siddarth Kara, a slavery economist at Harvard Business School and whose book on this subject is soon to be published, is that its scope is much larger than we normally think of. Kara’s research is based on 5000 interviews with people who have been victims of slavery which makes its finding all the more meaningful.  Modern slavery involves a minimum of 21 million people and, generates profits that are estimated to be as high as $150 billion a year. Each victim brings about $4000 a year and generates about $36,000 for the traffickers, letting us know that once a victim Continue reading “Modern Slavery–The Scope of The Problem”

Human Trafficking–Some Stats

Here are some statistics about human trafficking, statistics that require no commentary.

<>79% of trafficked people are women and children

<>Victims of trafficking are found in 106 of 193 countries

<>  from 2012-14 the UN  Office on Drug and Crime estimated 0ver 500 flows of trafficking from 137 different nationalities

<>Victims  are compelled to act as beggars, enter into sham marriages, forced into organ removal, participate in pornography production among others Continue reading “Human Trafficking–Some Stats”

Blocking a Loophole

Anything that chips away at the use of child and forced labor is good news. A loophole allowing goods to enter the US even if they had been made with child or forced labor has been closed. The Tariff Act of 1930 said that if there was not enough supply to meet US demand, the goods could come in regardless. Since then the act was used a mere 39 times to block forced labor, the last time being in 2000. The language has now been changed, and goods will no longer be allowed in if Continue reading “Blocking a Loophole”