What do you think when you hear the term ‘Modern Slavery’? Chances are it conjures up images of kids working in a factory, in some poor, developing country. Or maybe a gang-led sex trafficking ring? It is the sort of thing that happens to other people. In other countries. That doesn’t really have anything to do with you.
Sadly, our Hollywood held notion of what ‘Modern Slavery’ might look like, is often misplaced and shrouded in myth. Let’s examine a few:
Slavery is a thing of the past – Slavery may have its roots planted firmly in the past, but the 2018 Modern Slavery Act highlighted that it is a practice still very much alive and (un)well in modern times too.
Modern Slavery is not a big problem – Unfortunately, this is far from true. In fact, there are more people in slavery today than at any other time in history. According to 50 For Freedom, if all the slaves from around the world lived together in one city, it would be one of the biggest cities in the world. Recent estimates put the worldwide slavery figures at approximately 40 million, with a quarter of that number estimated to be children.
Modern Slavery happens in other countries – Nope. Modern Slavery happens in every country. Including Australia.
Slaves are trafficked, kidnapped or targeted by gangs – Whilst in some cases this might be true, it is just as likely they might be ‘recruited’ by a friend, family member, employee or recruitment company. Often it is the poor and displaced that are most vulnerable and who are lured with the promise of a better life, a steady income and a way to help their families back home. They have no idea that they might be agreeing to 16 hour days, 7 days a week often with a large travel/recruitment debt to pay. With their passports taken away, threats of violence or psychological manipulation, often their hope is removed along with their freedom.
Slaves are mainly found in the manufacturing and sex trade industries – There are reports of forced labor in many industries worldwide. From the construction industry to the fishing trade. From the farming industry to the domestic sector. Modern slavery in the business context can be found hidden deep within the supply chain which makes recognising it and eliminating it even harder.
There is not much I can do that will really make a difference – Consumers and businesses alike can play their part in taking a stand against modern slavery. The recently passed Modern Slavery Act makes Australia only the second country (after the UK) to have an act that makes businesses accountable. The Act ‘requires entities based, or operating, in Australia, which have an annual consolidated revenue of more than $100 million, to report annually on the risks of modern slavery in their operations and supply chains, and actions to address those risks.’ It is important for businesses to work with trusted suppliers, who respect the need for corporate social responsibility and supply chain transparency. Consumers can help by by using some of the tools available to check if products are free of child and slave labor. Resources such as Good Guide, and the Good Shopping Guide are a good place to start. They can also support organisations such as Anti-Slavery Australia, who are actively fighting the practice.
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