Application Exercise 8w: Tackling modern slavery
- Define ‘modern slavery’ and identify the key forms of modern slavery.
‘Modern slavery’ differs from traditional perceptions of slavery in that it involves a variety of exploitative practices including forced labour (adults are subject to control on their movements, and may not be paid for the work they do), bonded labour (where adults are forcibly detained), human trafficking and child labour.
- Outline the extent of the problem of modern slavery:
a. Globally, the ILO estimates that there are around 21 million people in forced labour, half of them in the Asia-Pacific region.
b. In Australia, the Global Slavery Index estimates that there could up to 15,000 people living in modern slavery conditions on any given day.
- Explain how Australians can be benefitting from modern slavery without even realising.
Because our supply chains are now global, it can be hard to determine if all products with a ‘Made in Australia’ label have not at some stage used slaves or underage children in the production process. The major risk for Australian businesses and consumers in terms of benefiting from modern slavery comes from imported goods, including laptops and other technology, clothing, fish (including prawns and seafood), rice and cocoa.
- Explain how the globalisation of production has helped to both encourage modern slavery and keep it hidden.
Companies have created complex supply chains through outsourcing the labour to produce their products (often in locations remote from the company’s headquarters) and leave it up to local labour suppliers to monitor the workers’ conditions. Customers often don’t know what these conditions are.
- Describe what the Australian government has done to attempt to tackle modern slavery and evaluate the likely effectiveness of their efforts.
Australia has in place a Modern Slavery Act 2018 that requires all large organisations (approximately 3000 companies) to report annually on the risks of modern slavery in their operations and supply chains. The reports will be publicly available.
This may not be completely effective because there will be no penalties for failing to lodge information. However, supporters of the legislation have pointed out that public disclosure still gives non-governmental organisations the opportunity to ‘name and shame’ those who do not comply.
Consumer pressure is also likely to come to bear on those organisations that do not report on the risk of modern slavery in their operations or supply chain.