Modern-Day Slavery–$150 Billion Global Industry, 30 Million in Servitude: Business Must End ‘Forced Labor’ in Supply Chains

February 4, 2015

Modern-day slavery is a $150 Billion global industry and enslaves 29.8 million people world-wide… Modern-day slavery is comparable to slavery in the 18th and 19th centuries but more insidious… Slavery refers to the condition of treating another person(s) as if they are property– something to be bought, sold, traded or even destroyed. People in modern-day slavery (as in earlier times) are essentially ‘owned’ by their employers, and are controlled through variety of means including; massive recruitment debts that they are unable  to pay off, threats of harm to them or their families, intimidation, cruel punishment…

Today, modern-day slavery takes many forms, and is known by many names, but whatever term is used, the significant characteristic of all forms of modern-day slavery is that it involves either; person(s), group, company… depriving other person(s) of their freedom: freedom to leave one job for another, or freedom to leave one workplace for another, or freedom to control their own body… Today’s slaves are trapped in many venues worldwide, for example; fishing fleets and sweatshops, mines and brothels, electronics and high-tech, textile and garments … and in fields and plantations in countries across the world: Modern-day slavery is ubiquitous.

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According to Joanne Bauer; for far too long businesses have ignored the use of forced labor in corporate supply chains– a situation that reflects– failure, not just of business but of society at large to confront the inconvenient truth of modern-day slavery. But, to fully understand modern-day slavery you must acknowledge that it’s a business; an illegitimate business, but still a business to make money and profit at the expense, enslavement, suffering… of humanity… According to Andrew Cockburn; there are more slaves today than were seized from Africa in four centuries of the trans-Atlantic slave trade… So, business must step-up, now; and tackle crisis of modern-day slavery head-on.

According to International Labor Organization (ILO) Report: The ILO estimates that modern-day slavery is $150 Billion per year business, and 20.9 million or more people are working as modern-day slaves, victims of forced labor, trapped in jobs into which they were coerced or deceived and which they cannot leave. This figure represents a conservative estimate, given the strict methodology employed to measure this largely hidden crime. Human trafficking can also be regarded as forced labor, and so this estimate captures the full realm of human trafficking for labor and sexual exploitation or what some call ‘modern-day slavery’.

This means that around three out of every 1,000 persons worldwide are in forced labor at any given time… Women and girls represent the greater share of the total – 11.4 million (55%), as compared to 9.5 million (45%) men and boys. Adults are more affected than children – 74% (15.4 million) of victims fall in the age group of 18 years and above, whereas children aged 17 years and below represent 26% of the total (or 5.5 million child victims).

Of total number of 20.9 million in forced labor, 18.7 million (90%) are exploited in private economies, by individuals or enterprises. And out of these, 4.5 million (22%) are victims of forced sexual exploitation, and 14.2 million (68%) are victims of forced labor exploitation in economic activities, such as; agriculture, domestic work, construction, manufacturing… The remaining 2.2 million (10%) are in state-imposed forms of forced labor, for example; in prisons, or in work imposed by the state military or by rebel armed forces.

The Asia-Pacific region by far is the largest hotbed for exploited laborers, accounting for 11.7 million (56% of the global total)… Africa comes in at number two, accounting for 3.7 million (18%), while another 1.8 million (9%) of exploited laborers are in Latin America, Caribbean. The ‘Developed Economies’ and ‘European Union’ account for 1.5 million (7%), while countries of Central, South-Eastern and Eastern Europe (CSEE) and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) have 1.6 million (7%)… An estimated 600,000 exploited workers, meanwhile, are believed to be in the Middle East… These men, women and children are virtually invisible, hidden behind wall of coercion, threat, economic exploitation. 

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The Global Slavery Index is a ranking of 162 countries around the world, based on a combined measure of three factors: Estimated prevalence of modern slavery by population: Measure of child marriage: Measure of human trafficking. The Index provides an estimate of the size of the modern-day slavery problem, country by country… Not all the countries in the world are represented in the Global Slavery Index. The 162 countries that are included, however, represent nearly all of the world’s 7.1 billion people…

The Global Slavery Index is the product of ‘Walk Free Foundation’, in consultation with experts from international organizations, think tanks, academic institutions… A key finding from this year’s Index is that there are an estimated 29.8 million people enslaved around the world… Also according to the Index; the prevalence of modern-day slavery is highest in the following countries: Mauritania, Haiti,  India Pakistan, Nepal, Moldova, Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Gambia, Gabon… However, when considered in absolute terms, countries with highest numbers of enslaved people are: India, China, Pakistan, Nigeria, Russia, Ethiopia, Thailand, Republic of Congo , Myanmar, Bangladesh… and when taken together, these ten countries account for 76% of the total estimate of 29.8 million enslaved people… Countries with the lowest prevalence of modern slavery are: Denmark, Finland, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, New Zealand, UK, Ireland, Iceland…

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In the article Business of Modern Day Slavery by Andrew Mersmann writes: The reality that modern-day slavery is happening right now shocks most people… By a conservative estimate there are more than 27 million people enslaved right now around the world– more slaves today than at any other time in history. In the U. S., 150,000 children are exploited by the sex trade every year; it’s a supply and demand business, and as long as there is demand for less-than-minimum wage labor, and a demand for non-consensual sex trade, human beings will continue to be bought and sold… The reason it continues to grow and thrive is because human life can be cheap, disposable, for example; in 1850, a slave in the American South cost the equivalent, in today’s currency, of about $40,000. Whereas today, a slave can be had for about $90; there are millions of economically and socially vulnerable people who exploiters would consider viable stock… Because these vulnerable people are, essentially; disposable and easily replaced… then, when a slave becomes– ill, injured, outlive their usefulness and profitability or when they become a burden to the slaveholder, they are routinely dumped or killed…

The largest global industries that profit from the enslavement and forced work of people are the same as ever; agriculture, mining, garment industry… There is a fairly good chance that the cell phone you use every day, the imported fruits and vegetables you eat, perhaps the sneakers on your feet, and the diamonds you wear or covet, were brought into the commerce stream by someone who was not working of their own free will… Some are coerced by seemingly wonderful yet fraudulent job offers or promises of free transport to other countries, where once they arrive, they are kept in physical or financial bondage until they can payback exorbitant travel costs or rents or other ‘fees’ they incurred and supposedly owe a ‘boss’… The cycle is unbreakable and there is never a way out…

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In the article Modern-Day Slavery: Motivating Business to Act by  Luk Van Wassenhove and Sameer Hasija write: As many as 27 million people around the world are victims of modern-day slavery, e.g.; forced labor, human trafficking… According to the ‘Trafficking in Persons Report’ by U.S. State Department: It’s estimated that up to 68% of modern-day slavery victims toil in commercial industries such as; manufacturing, construction, domestic work… The extent of the problem is chilling, e.g.;  many items in your home, office… your smart phone, clothing you wear… are at least partly produced by 21st Century slaves… Despite this, there is still no critical mass of public or business outcry and willingness to boycott the purchasing of  goods from providers that use forced, coerced, or bonded laborers…

Compared with many social and environmental issues, modern-day slavery has not seen much enthusiastic response from the business community. Although virtually all business codes of conduct prohibit any kind of forced labor, however this issue is rarely given serious attention. According to Crane and Matten; most businesses simply assume that it doesn’t affect them. Companies just aren’t looking hard enough to find connections to modern-day slavery in their supply chains, elsewhere… According to the Guardian; problem is not so much that we cannot find forced labor cases; but a new approach to enforcing forced labor laws is necessary… In the meantime, forced labor and slavery continue to flourish in global supply chains spread across continents, fueled by your insatiable desire for cheap goods and raw materials…

According to Andrew Wallis; usual narrative around slavery in supply chains of clothes, food, gadgets… is that it’s driven by the evils of big business… But if you simply point the finger at business, you risk alienating the only people with the power to eradicate slavery… Most corporations are not directly or intentionally involved in using forced labor or slaves, but in a world of complex and extended supply chains it’s easy for modern slavery to thrive, often unnoticed, at the bottom of production line. According to a few business leaders; it never really occurred to me that this was an issue, until I came across it in the supply chain, and I realized it was not an isolated incident and something had to be done…

According to Ethan B. Kapstein; modern-day slavery is a product of same political, technological, economic forces that fuel globalization. The current system offers too many incentives to criminals and outlaw states to market humans… It’s important to remember that slavery today seems to thrive in some parts of the world due to economic growth, not despite it. It’s worth remembering that in 19th Century many people argued that slavery would end ‘naturally’ once the practice was no longer economically profitable. However, there is no ‘natural’ end to slavery, and any productive policy must start by recognizing that fact….

The reality of modern-day slavery is that millions of people are trapped and denied freedom and lives of dignity, and bound only to serve and profit the criminals that control them… According to Aidan McQuade; many people continue to believe the myth that slavery is a thing of the past… other people, naively accept the idea that modern-day slavery is some ‘regrettably inevitable’ aspect of international business in a global economy… The routine use of slavery in many of the supply chains will remain the case until leaders from business and politics refuse to tolerate this situation any further and enforce the laws against it.

Source: BizShift-Trends

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