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Saturday, June 27, 2015

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Forced labour in the global economy




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There is a growing and sober awareness among international organisations and some advocacy groups that trafficking, slavery and forced labour are not anomalies perpetuated by a few ‘bad apple’ employers. Rather, severe labour exploitation is an endemic feature of the contemporary global economy. From slavery and trafficking in the production of shrimp in Thailand to artisanal cheese and clothing made by US prison labour, forced labour plays a significant role in commodity production, as well as care, domestic, and sex work.

The need to address forced labour more systematically has been emphasised recently in the rise of calls to tackle ‘root causes’. Yet what actually are these root causes? How do they operate? Beyond the commonplace notion that ‘poverty’ renders workers vulnerable to abuse, or that this abuse constitutes ‘the underside of globalisation’, what do we actually know about the specific ways in which the structure of the global economy conditions both poverty and severe labour exploitation?
Read on...


Forced labour is big business: states and corporations are doing little to stop it



GENEVIEVE LEBARON and NEIL HOWARD 13 March 2015


The recent flurry of government, corporate, and NGO initiatives to eradicate slavery does little to tackle underlying causes. Until this changes, severe exploitation will thrive in the global economy.


Basic income and the anti-slavery movement



NEIL HOWARD 12 March 2015


Unconditional basic income is not only feasible, but it also has more emancipatory potential than any other single policy because it targets economic vulnerability, the heart of all labour exploitation.


What would loosen the roots of labour exploitation in supply chains?



RACHEL WILSHAW 11 March 2015


Forced labour is a symptom of a wider malaise facing workers in global supply chains. Governance gaps and skewed business structures are exacerbating inequality and must be tackled for workers to be properly protected.


The politics of numbers: the Global Slavery Index and the marketplace of activism



JOEL QUIRK and ANDRÉ BROOME 10 March 2015


The Global Slavery Index is profoundly flawed methodologically, yet it remains widely and often uncritically cited. What underlies the production and use of highly suspect statistics?


ILO campaigns: missing the wood for the trees?



JENS LERCHE 9 March 2015


The ILO’s struggle against forced labour doesn’t go far enough. By abstracting ‘forced labour’ from capitalism, it de-politicises all labour exploitation. This is the opposite of what is needed.



Modern slavery and the responsibilities of individual consumers



CHRISTIAN BARRY and KATE MACDONALD 5 March 2015


How can one be an ethical consumer in a globalised world? There are ways to mitigate our involvement in harmful global supply chains. Continuing with business as usual is unacceptable.

Addressing forced labour in fragmented chains of production


FABIOLA MIERES and SIOBHÁN MCGRATH 4 March 2015


What are the prospects for protecting workers in global supply chains? From UN principles to business and worker efforts, the range of initiatives is impressive – but many remain seriously flawed.


Global supply chains: the role of law? A role for law!



ANDREAS RÜHMKORF 2 March 2015


International law lacks stringent mechanisms for ensuring worker protection in global supply chains. It is the responsibility of the wealthy nations which are home to major corporations to fill this legal gap.


Harsh labour: bedrock of global capitalism



BENJAMIN SELWYN 2 March 2015


Global supply chains are not benign spheres of opportunity, but tools for increasing the exploitation of labour in both the Global North and the Global South.



Despite claims of progress, labor and environmental violations continue to plague Apple



NICKI LISA COLE and JENNY CHAN 26 February 2015


Though Apple claims that 2014 was "a year of progress," reports from labor rights groups and researchers reveal troubling labor and environmental violations continue unabated.


Free to stitch, or starve: capitalism and unfreedom in the global garment industry



ALESSANDRA MEZZADRI 25 February 2015


Growing attention is focused on ‘modern slavery’ and forced labour in the garment industry, but broader forms of unfreedom ensnare the workers stitching our clothes.


Food retailers, market concentration and forced labour



SÉBASTIEN RIOUX 24 February 2015


Market concentration is driving forced labour in the food industry, as retailers’ unprecedented power allows them to command low prices, quick turnaround and high quality from farmers and suppliers.


Still slaving over sugar



BEN RICHARDSON 23 February 2015


Despite the many 19th century acts declaring the emancipation of the enslaved, there are still practices in sugar production that need to be abolished. Is mechanisation the answer?

Capitalism’s unfree global workforce


SUSAN FERGUSON and DAVID MCNALLY 20 February 2015


Neoliberal migration and border regimes instantiate a de facto forced labour regime. Migration is increasingly key to providing capital’s precarious workforce, but unfree labour has long been central to global capitalism.


Forced labour under a changing climate: droughts and debt in semi-arid India



MARCUS TAYLOR 19 February 2015


Climatic change compounds the vulnerabilities and dependencies existing between households in semi-arid South Asia. To avoid more coerced labour, public policy must address the root causes of such vulnerability.

The role of labour market intermediaries in driving forced and unfree labour


KENDRA STRAUSS 18 February 2015


There has been lots of talk about multinational corporations’ responsibility for fuelling forced labour. But what about the labour market intermediaries who recruit and supply vulnerable workers to these firms?


What has forced labour to do with poverty?



NICOLA PHILLIPS 17 February 2015


Income-based measures of poverty are unreliable for determining who is most vulnerable to forced labour. More nuanced understandings of vulnerability are required to effectively reduce forced labour in the global economy.


Introducing Beyond Slavery’s month on forced labour in the global political economy



GENEVIEVE LEBARON and NEIL HOWARD 16 February 2015


Beyond Trafficking and Slavery editors introduce their February issue exploring the political economic contexts of slavery, trafficking and forced labour, and examining global efforts to confront their root causes.


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