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Confronting Root Causes: Forced Labour in Global Supply Chains



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Confronting root causes: forced labour in global supply chains
Genevieve LeBaron, Neil Howard, Cameron Thibos and Penelope Kyritsis
This collection was published in 2018 by openDemocracy and the Sheeld Political Economy Research Institute
(SPERI), University of Sheeld under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 licence.
Publication layout and design: Cameron Thibos
Illustrations: Carys Boughton (
Beyond Tracking and Slavery (BTS) is an independent marketplace of ideas that uses evidence-based advocacy
to tackle the political, economic, and social root causes of global exploitation, vulnerability and forced labour. It
provides original analysis and specialised knowledge on these issues with the rigour of academic scholarship, the
clarity of journalism, and the immediacy of political activism. BTS is housed within openDemocracy, a UK-based
digital commons dedicated to converting trailblazing thinking into lasting, meaningful change.
The Sheeld Political Economy Research Institute (SPERI) at the University of Sheeld brings together leading
international researchers, policy-makers, journalists and opinion formers to develop new ways of thinking about the
economic and political challenges formed by the current combination of nancial crisis, shifting economic power
and environmental threat. SPERI’s goal is to shape and lead the debate on how to build a sustainable recovery and a
sustainable political economy for the long-term.
Genevieve LeBaron is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Politics at the University of Sheeld, Chair of the Yale
University Working Group on Modern Slavery, and a UK ESRC Future Research Leaders Fellow. Her research focuses
on the global business of forced labour and the politics and eectiveness of governance initiatives to combat it.
Neil Howard is an academic activist and Fellow at the Institute of Development Policy, University of Antwerp. His
research focuses on unfree labour, and on the workings of the policy establishment as it seeks to respond.
Cameron Thibos is the managing editor of Beyond Tracking and Slavery at openDemocracy. He previously worked
as a research associate at the European University Institute’s Migration Policy Centre in Florence, and received his
D.Phil in 2014 from the Department of International Development at the University of Oxford.
Penelope Kyritsis is assistant managing editor at Beyond Tracking and Slavery. She holds a BA in Postcolonial Legal
Studies from Brown University, where she wrote a senior thesis on the humanitarian and legal discourses around sex
tracking and the contemporary refugee crisis.
Confronting root causes: forced
labour in global supply chains
Genevieve LeBaron, Neil Howard, Cameron ibos and Penelope Kyritsis
e political economy of forced labour .........................................4
Forced labour and the meaning of freedom .................................9
Globalisation and the rise of supply chains ................................14
Poverty .............................................................................................20
Identity and discrimination ..........................................................25
Limited labour protection .............................................................30
Restrictive mobility regimes .........................................................35
Concentrated corporate power and ownership ..........................40
Outsourcing ....................................................................................45
Irresponsible sourcing practices ...................................................50
Governance gaps.............................................................................55
Where do we go from here? ..........................................................61
Sources .............................................................................................69
It is by now widely recognised that eectively tackling forced
labour in the global economy means addressing its ‘root causes’.
Policymakers, business leaders and civil society organisations all
routinely call for interventions that do so.1-2 Yet what exactly are these root causes?
And how do they operate?
e two most commonly given answers are ‘poverty’ and ‘globalisation.3 Although
each may be foundational to forced labour, both terms are typically used in nebu-
lous, catch-all ways that serve more as excuses than explanations. Both encompass
and obscure a web of decisions and processes that maintain an unjust status quo,
while being used as euphemisms for deeper socio-economic structures that lie at
the core of the capitalist global economy.
e question thus becomes: exactly which aspects of poverty and globalisation
are responsible for the endemic labour exploitation frequently described with the
terms forced labour, human tracking or modern slavery? Which global economic
1e political economy
of forced labour
Introduction: The political economy of forced labour
processes ensure a constant and low-cost supply of highly exploitable and coerced
workers? And which dynamics trigger a demand among businesses for their ex-
ploitation, making it possible for them to prot from it?
is 12-part report is an attempt to answer these questions in a rigorous yet accessi-
ble way. With it, we hope to provide policymakers, journalists, scholars and activists
with a road map for understanding the political economy of forced labour in today’s
global value chain world”.4
The Beyond Tracking and
Slavery study
Why is this important? First, because
although awareness is growing that
exploitation is structural – in the sense
that systemic forces underpin the fact
that some people are exploited while
others are not – little has been done to
explain how these forces operate, what
causes them, or why they have not yet
been overcome.
Second, while calls to address root
causes are now commonplace, there
remains a distinct lack of discussion
about what doing so should precisely
entail. is poses huge problems for
policy-makers and activists, because
if we cannot understand the issues we
face, we are limited in what we can do about them. We are also more likely to mistake
symptoms for causes, wasting precious resources on treating the former without ever
achieving real gains on the latter.
Indeed, millions are spent every year on eorts to prevent forced labour.5 Yet that
expenditure oen amounts to little, since most policymakers and activists lack a
comprehensive theory to guide their actions. is decit causes them to shy away
from pushing for bigger and more politicised change, instead favouring small-scale,
isolated interventions that can be marketed as concrete and measurable ‘wins’.6 e
resulting programmes are oen like Band-Aids, and have minimal impact on exist-
What do we mean by
forced labour?
This report uses a broader denition of ‘forced labour’
than the standard international denition discussed
in the next chapter. We include work brought about
by physical, psychological or economic coercion
and recognise that, despite lacking the alternatives
needed to defend against such coercion, workers’
frequently retain and exhibit agency when entering
into coercive labour relations.
Introduction: The political economy of forced labour
ing structures of power within the global economic system. Worse still, they oen
do more harm than good to the people they are supposed to be helping.7-12
It is time for policy and activism to address these failings, to confront the root caus-
es of severe exploitation, and to do so in a systemic and informed fashion. With
the hope of sparking a conversation that will help them do this, we have drawn
together existing research on the political economy of forced labour in global value
chains (GVCs) to provide an overview of its root causes. Our source material has
been gathered from across a range of academic disciplines and includes country and
industry-specic cases, ethnographic investigations, statistical studies and relevant
non-academic data. We also draw upon the canon of historical and theoretical work
accounting for forced labour in the modern economy.
e picture of forced labour that we present in this report departs markedly from
prevailing discussions of modern slavery. Much recent analysis tends to conceptu-
alise the deepening and expansion of markets as the solution to forced labour.13 By
contrast, we see the problem of forced labour as intrinsically linked to core dynamics
of the global economy. Soaring levels of inequality, indecent work, concentrations of
corporate power and ownership, shiing legal and governance regimes – these are
all factors that render workers increasingly unprotected in the face of ever-harsher
market forces.
What do we mean by political economy?
Political economy refers to the underlying social and political mechanisms and principles that structure systems
of social organisation. These are the girders and tent poles propping up and giving shape to our everyday lives.
Structures that matter for this discussion include race, gender, caste, legal systems, and the market economy.
The study of political economy is the study of these structures. It examines the ‘rules of the game’, rather the ac-
tions of any individual player. It is also the study of power and its unequal distribution, specically the power to
aect the shape of the global economy. Today the actors with the power to do that include major corporations
and industry bodies, as well as politicians, governments and inter-governmental organisations.
Introduction: The political economy of forced labour
Overview of the report
is report is organised around a metaphor – the classical economic metaphor of
‘supply and demand’. Within mainstream economic theory, the price of any particu-
lar good is not determined by the individuals who buy and sell it. Instead, the price
results from a system-wide balance between how much of it is available in the world
(supply), how many people want it, and how badly (demand). e price goes up
as supply decreases or as demand increases, and down if the opposite applies. is
is a useful way of thinking about forced labour. Rather than a simple consequence
of greed or the moral shortcomings of individuals, forced labour in global supply
chains is a structural phenomenon that results when predictable, system-wide dy-
namics intersect to create a supply of highly exploitable workers and a business
demand for their labour.
Our report looks at eight of these dynamics: four relating to supply and four relating
to demand. On the supply side, the four dynamics we look at all contribute to cre-
ating a pool of workers vulnerable to exploitation. ese include:
Poverty, which we understand to entail the legally-created deprivation
of material and social resources;
Identity and discrimination, by which we understand the denial to
some people of the rights and status of full personhood, e.g. along lines
of race and gender;
Limited labour protections, which create pools of unprotected workers
outside the remit of state safeguards, who face serious barriers to acting
collectively and exerting rights;
Restrictive mobility regimes, which do the same.
Each of the elements we have chosen to look at on the demand side either create
pressure within the market for highly exploitable forms of labour or open up spaces
within which that labour can be exploited. All of these dynamics are integral to the
nature of global supply chains as they are currently constituted. ey include:
Concentrated corporate power and ownership, which creates huge
downward pressure on working conditions, in part by lowering the
share of value available to workers as wages;
Introduction: The political economy of forced labour
Outsourcing, which fragments responsibility for labour standards and
makes oversight and accountability very dicult;
Irresponsible sourcing practices, that put heavy cost and time pres-
sures on suppliers, which can lead to risky practices like unauthorised
Governance gaps, which are intentionally created around and within
supply chains, opening up spaces for bad practice.
Each of these eight dynamics shall be dealt with in turn over the subsequent chapters.
Before we take a closer look at these factors, however, we must rst lay out the con-
ceptual foundations of our analysis. In the next two chapters, we dene key terms
and articulate a theory of the concept of freedom. We believe this to be essential
both for understanding the root causes of forced labour and for building progressive
political responses to them. We also break apart the apolitical history of globalisa-
tion, which we argue is a political and historical process designed by and for the
powerful, rather than some neutral consequence of autonomous market forces. It is
to such theoretical foundations that we now turn.
Poverty Concentrated corporate
power and ownership
Identity and discrimination Outsourcing
Limited labour protection Irresponsible
sourcing practices
Restrictive mobility regimes Governance gaps
Many international agencies and non-governmental organisa-
tions (NGOs) simultaneously endorse the accepted legal deni-
tion of forced labour and the claim that poverty is its primary
root cause. We argue that this stance is highly contradictory, and that those who
believe that economic dynamics like poverty are the root cause of forced labour
need a broader understanding of freedom and coercion in order to better make
sense of the phenomena they seek to address.
Damaging denitions
Forced labour is dened in international law as “all work or service which is exacted
from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has
not oered himself voluntarily”. e guardian of this denition, the International
Labour Organisation (ILO), has further elaborated that the threat of penalty “can
take various forms, whether physical, psychological, nancial or other”.1 However,
it has also made clear that it understands coercion primarily as restricted to individ-
2Forced labour and the
meaning of freedom
Concepts 1 of 2: Forced labour and the meaning of freedom
ualised acts perpetrated by governments or employers. According to its Committee
of Experts:
An external constraint or indirect coercion interfering with a worker’s free-
dom to “oer himself voluntarily” may result not only from an act of the
authorities … but also from an employers practice … However, the employer
or the State are not accountable for all external constraints or indirect coercion
existing in practice: for example, the need to work in order to earn one’s living.2
(emphasis added)
What is most disturbing about this is that it negates the key form of coercion found
in market society, namely economic necessity. e ILO takes it as a given that people
will be forced to sell their labour to survive unless they are wealthy enough to avoid
having to do so. Yet this idea – that ‘real’ coercion can only ever be perpetrated by one
individual against another – prevents the ILO and likeminded institutions from un-
derstanding where the force in ‘forced labour’ comes from in a large number of cases.
A simple scenario from one of the poorer regions of the world will suce to make
this point concrete. Imagine you are a subsistence farmer with a young family to
support. You have no money and your crops earn very little, in part because much
of the return is paid to the multinational companies supplying you with fertiliser
and seed. If everyone in your household remains t and healthy you can just about
get by, but your daughter has just fallen seriously ill. Remember, this is a poor and
rural area and there is no clinic nearby. ere is a hospital in the nearest town but
it is expensive and far away, and there is no social safety net to pay for her care or
for your travel. is leaves you with only one option – to borrow money. But doing
so creates new problems, since the only person willing to lend to someone in your
position charges a hey sum. And as you both know, you will never be able to repay
him, so he oers you a choice: either you work his crops or you make clothes in his
brother’s factory for a year without pay. Or, your daughter could die. What do you
do? And who here is guilty of coercion?
It is important to emphasise that this is not a whimsical example. A wealth of re-
search shows that people all over the world routinely make choices such as this,
submitting themselves to precisely these kinds of exploitative labour relationships
because doing so represents their best or only available option.3-10 Under conditions
where menace of penalty are also present (such as the use of violence, intimidation,
or threats of non-payment of due wages), the political establishment refers to them
Concepts 1 of 2: Forced labour and the meaning of freedom
as ‘forced labourers’ and holds only the moneylender responsible for their plight.
But is that appropriate? is report argues that it is not. Instead, we argue that pin-
pointing blame in this individualised way is neither an acceptable nor an accurate
distribution of responsibility. e farmer above was given a choice and he took it.
Although the moneylender may have taken advantage of the fact that the farmer
had no better option, the fact that the farmer had no better option is not the fault of
the moneylender. To focus narrowly on the moneylender is thus to miss the deeper,
underlying structures that make his predatory oer possible.
In our analysis, the real problem is less that the farmer was ‘forced’ by the money-
lender to do work that he did not want to do, though this type of lending obviously
takes advantage of the farmers desperation, and the use of intimidation, violence,
or threats is not appropriate under any circumstance. Rather, it is that this exploit-
ative exchange was the best choice the farmer had. And responsibility for that fact
lies with the power-brokers organising our social world, who have ensured that
money is a pre-requisite to survival and yet le the farmer with none of it, with no
healthcare and with no social protection.11
Poverty and freedom
Let’s now return to poverty and root causes. We said at the outset that there is a con-
tradiction between accepting the ILO denition of and approach to forced labour and
believing that poverty is its underlying root cause. At the centre of this contradiction
is the way that freedom is typically understood.
In mainstream political thinking – and certainly in the thinking that structures in-
ternational law12 and policy around forced labour – freedom is understood in nega-
tive terms, i.e. as ‘freedom from’ something.13 Accordingly, we are understood to be
free to the extent that no one interferes with us, and unfree to the extent that they
do. Negative conceptions of freedom inform the dominant neoclassical understand-
ings of the market that were developed by thinkers like Friedrich Hayek and Milton
Friedman. ey argued that capitalist markets are characterised by voluntary, free
and equal exchange between individuals, and that workers are free so long as they
experience an “absence of coercion” from other individuals.14
Negative conceptions of freedom, however, do not square with the idea of poverty
as a root cause of forced labour. A root cause is a fundamental reason for the occur-
rence of a problem – an underlying, original source of action which sets in motion
a chain of other actions and leads to a particular event. But poverty is no more than
Concepts 1 of 2: Forced labour and the meaning of freedom
an abstract concept. It has no power on its own, and certainly cannot force anyone
to labour involuntarily or under the menace of penalty.
As such, when we say that poverty is a root cause of forced labour, we are really saying
that we understand the poor to be pushed into situations of exploitative or forced
work by the fact that they lack viable alternatives. We therefore acknowledge that an
abstract freedom from interference – as might be found in a constitution entitling all
citizens to be ‘free’ – is not enough to guarantee the exercise of that freedom. Only the
freedom to resist interference can accomplish that. is acknowledgement that true
‘freedom from’ only exists with an accompanying ‘freedom to’ is of major signicance,
since it means that within the story that ‘poverty is a root cause of forced labour’
there exists an enormously powerful
and more positive theory of freedom
a freedom anchored in the power to
say no.15
What are the implications of this the-
ory of freedom? First of all, it compels
us to expand our understanding of
key concepts, such as coercion and
vulnerability, from the personal to
the structural. Individual instances of
exploitation rely on one side having
no viable or superior alternatives to
what is on oer, and thus extremely
limited power to say no. Yet unless
we believe this lack of alternatives to
occur naturally like the rain, we have
no choice but to acknowledge that it derives from the human arrangement of social,
political and economic aairs. e ‘bad guy’ in this story, therefore, is not just the
unscrupulous person oering exploitative work to people who need to take it. It is
the system which ensures that taking it is the best option those people have.
is recognition, in turn, requires us to rethink vulnerability as well. Vulnerability is
commonly understood as a static or individual notion attached to individual types
of people, oen rooted in gendered and racialised narratives of victimhood. (ink
‘women and children, for example, in the standard discourse).16-17 But according to
When we say that poverty is
a root cause of forced labour,
we are really saying that we
understand the poor to be
pushed into situations of
exploitative or forced work by
the fact that they lack viable
Concepts 1 of 2: Forced labour and the meaning of freedom
our thinking, a fuller understanding of vulnerability must attend to the fact that it is
relational, and that it could entail inhabiting a position within society that involves
structural limits being placed on one’s available alternatives.18 Poverty – which we
conceive of as the state of being denied access to society’s wealth – is one such struc-
tural limit. But there are others, as we will be discussing throughout this report.
Together, they combine to ensure the supply of workers who can be subjected to
labour exploitation, including its most severe forms.
Finally, if the limits on people’s freedom to say no are neither randomly nor natural-
ly distributed, we need to ask ourselves who or what is responsible for them? Who is
responsible for arranging social, political and economic aairs such that only a small
number of people enjoy the power to say no to the coercion inherent to the market
while the vast majority do not? Who or what, ultimately, shapes the ‘root causes’ of
forced labour? As you will see throughout this report, we hold governments, em-
ployers and the powerful very much to account. And in doing so, we challenge the
notion that capitalist markets are harmonious, equal and natural institutions, and
that their expansion entails a solution to the problem of forced labour.
Former UN Secretary General Ko Annan is rumoured to have
once complained that arguing against globalisation is like arguing
against the laws of gravity. So widely accepted is its inevitability
that most never question its nature, and those who do still see it as unstoppable.
is aura is powerfully depoliticising. It implies that, for good or ill, globalisation
just is – like gravity, an impersonal force shaping our lives and beyond our control.
is is why, when globalisation is given as a reason for something, the speaker oen
accompanies her explanation with a slight shrug of defeat. e ILO, for example,
famously labelled forced labour as the “underside of globalisation, implying it to
be just some bad accompaniment to an inevitable event.1 We seek a stronger expla-
nation, however, to understand the links between globalisation and forced labour.
Neoliberalisation and its architects
e term ‘globalisation’ has become an everyday shorthand for the complex mix
of social, cultural, political and economic change characterising our times: the
3Globalisation and the
rise of supply chains
Concepts 2 of 2: Globalisation and the rise of supply chains
heightened exchange of information
and ideas; the increased mobility of
people and money; and especially the
transnational integration of produc-
tion, investment and trade.2 Having a
catch-all term for the world’s increas-
ing complexity and interconnected-
ness is useful, but it does not get us
any closer to explaining why, how,
or at whose behest these changes are
taking place. is makes it a poor ex-
planatory tool for forced labour.
In our view, it is more useful to speak
of neoliberal or capitalist globalisation,
or better still ‘neoliberalisation’. N e o -
liberalism, in the words of geographer
David Harvey, is primarily a theory of
capitalist governance that sees human
well-being as best advanced through
“liberating individual entrepreneur-
ial freedoms” against a backdrop of
“strong private property rights, free
markets, and free trade.3
Unlike amorphous globalisation,
neoliberalisation can be traced, dis-
sected and analysed as a distinct pol-
icy framework. Its proponents have
names, its guiding ideas and recipes
for action are known, and its policies
produce recognisable patterns of con-
sequences as they propagate through-
out the world. is gives it far more
explanatory power for why the world
looks the way it does today.
The project of
Neoliberalisation has been a dominant policy
paradigm since the 1970s, centred around the
following core trends:
increased capital mobility and exposure to
international trade;
structural reorientations in favour of shareholder
value and nancialisation;
the generalised intensication of competitive
pressures, speculation and short-termism;
• widespread evasion and externalisation of the
costs of social and ecological reproduction;
• the development of various forms of state
outsourcing, devolved governance and lean
• the weakening of specic national government
capacities, especially with respect to sociospatial
redistribution and long-term (public, social)
Source: Peck, 2010: 29.
Concepts 2 of 2: Globalisation and the rise of supply chains
Originating in the work of scholars like Hayek and Friedman – who were prominent
in the elevation of the market to its current status – neoliberalisation has been driv-
en primarily by business elites, their allies in Western governments and institutions
such as the World Bank. Its philosophy conceives of all individuals as potential en-
trepreneurs and of markets as society’s primary and ‘natural’ organising force: we
get what we pay for, pay for what we can, and reduce the government’s role to that
of a policeman protecting our property.
What has this meant in practice? For four decades, governments around the world
have pushed – and, in the case of poor countries, have been pushed – to remove
most subsidies and taris; to roll back the social protections serving as safety nets
for those in need; to reduce anti-poverty redistribution and privatise public goods
provision; to allow large-scale foreign direct investment; and to reinforce power
imbalances between workers and employers.4-12
e promise of all this has been of a new dawn of prosperity, with creative energies
liberated and market eciency fostered by the state getting out of the way of freely
chosen, voluntary exchanges between workers and employers. Neoliberalism would
improve the lives of western consumers by bringing them ever-cheaper goods from
overseas; while for Southern workers the carrot has been nothing less than an end to
poverty itself, through inclusion into the world market as producers of those goods.
is is where global supply chains enter the picture.
The growth of global supply chains
e chances are that you are reading this on a computer, tablet or smart phone. If so,
you are sitting at the end of a long and winding global supply chain. Today, a typical
computer might contain a memory chip from Malaysia, a battery from Indonesia,
a screen from South Korea, RAM from Germany and a hard drive made in ai-
land. is all before it was assembled in China and bought o a shelf in New York,
Buenos Aires, or wherever you may be.13 Apple, the company from which you may
have bought it, sources its parts from a global network spread across over a dozen
countries, including China, India, Italy, Indonesia, Ireland, the Philippines, Puerto
Rico, Singapore, Malaysia and the Czech Republic.14
is reects a key shi in global production practices spurred by neoliberalisation.
It has engendered the rise of a new, international division of labour in which vast
brand and retail companies coordinate production across a panoply of sub-con-
tracted suppliers located all over the Global South.15-19 Initially, lead rms were
Concepts 2 of 2: Globalisation and the rise of supply chains
predominantly Western, but today there are a growing number of large companies
located in the ‘rising powers’ which also make use of global supply chains to pro-
duce their products.20
Today, companies such as Tesco or Nike design and sell products but produce
very little themselves. at crucial middle step is outsourced to smaller rms in an
attempt to expand prots and reduce legal liability. For instance, mega-company
Nestlé has almost 165,000 direct suppliers and 695,000 individual farmers world-
wide.21 Many supply chains cut across
transnational borders to take advan-
tage of lower labour costs and weaker
labour protections in other countries,
but some also remain concentrated
within national borders.22-23
As we further explore in chapter 8, the
reorganisation of global production
has led to monopolisation, soaring
prots and the rise of corporations
whose scale and political power has
hitherto been unknown. Apple is of-
cially the world’s most valuable ever
company and holds cash reserves of
over US$200 billion.24 e United
Nations Conference on Trade and
Development (UNCTAD) has esti-
mated that the productive networks
coordinated by rms like this encom-
pass fully 80% of world trade, with
one in ve jobs linked to their oper-
ations.25-26 Indeed, as scholars Peter Dauvergne and Jane Lister observe, “one third
of global gross domestic product (GDP) and 70% of all employment and activity
in developed countries are now tied to retail”, with rms like Costco and Carrefour
leading the way.27
The links to forced labour
What does all of this have to do with forced labour? And which aspects of global-
isation are important for our understanding of it? ere are many, and it will be
Input Suppliers
Processors / Traders
Exporters Wholesalers
Source: Emilia Saarelainen and Merten Sievers (2011) ‘ILO Value
Chain Development Brieng Paper 2: The Role of Cooperatives
and Business Associations in Value Chain Development’.
Producers Producers
End Markets
Global Retailers National Retailers
Concepts 2 of 2: Globalisation and the rise of supply chains
the task of this report to spell those out in greater detail. For now, however, let us
underline a few key points.
First, the global spread of neoliberal models of market and social governance has
been neither an organic nor an even development. It has happened as a result of elite,
powerful actors pushing through changes in the interests of big business, nancial
capital and the wealthy. It is and always has been an inherently unequal project that
has been shown to deepen inequality.28-29
Second, this rising inequality has thrown onto the global labour market a vast army
of people so poor and lacking in state protections that they epitomise the inability
to say no to exploitation.30-31 In Mexico, for example, the number of people living
in extreme poverty rose by 500% at the height of neoliberalising reforms, between
1994 and 2000.32 In much of Africa, real wages declined substantially around the
same time period, with average household food consumption falling to 25% lower
than it was a quarter century previously.33
Numerous factors explain this immiseration, and the specic dynamics at work vary
across industries and regions of the world. One of the most pernicious, particularly
in the agricultural sector (where existing research has documented severe labour
exploitation to be disproportionately concentrated),34 is that the global reduction
in taris and subsidies has proceeded in highly unequal fashion. at is, while
poorer countries have typically removed their protections under pressure from the
rich, the rich have oen failed to follow suit.35 For example, despite urging African
countries to liberalise their cotton sectors, the US government subsidised American
cotton-growing multinationals by over US$13 billion between 1996 and 2002 – a
per-kilogram price subsidy of almost 50%.36 is decimated much African cotton
production.37-38 ese and similar trends are key to explaining why we see forced
labour in the cotton industry, and indeed, in many other industries.39
ird, many of the dispossessed farmers and other workers impacted by these sorts
of changes end up at the bottom of supply chains, where they face highly predatory
business practices from more powerful rms. e companies directing many supply
chains command enormous power in the global economy, which they use to control
as well as reduce the costs of production.40- 41 ey do this, for example, by imposing
short-term contracts, penalties and fees for late or low-quality orders. ey also
oat disproportionate prots to the top of value chains by demanding razor thin
margins at the bottom.42
Concepts 2 of 2: Globalisation and the rise of supply chains
In the words of Nelson Lichtenstein, big brands squeeze their suppliers “by shiing
every imaginable cost, risk, and penalty onto their books.43 is, in turn, places
major pressure on suppliers to balance their own books through the use of coercive,
exploitative, and otherwise unacceptable labour practices. As later chapters of this
report make clear, extensive research now shows correlations between such lead
rm practices and the widespread abuse and exploitation of workers.44-45
For the next eight chapters, we explore these structural supply and demand factors
in detail.
It is empirically indisputable that vulnerability to forced labour
is shaped by poverty.1-3 is chapter will draw on research from
across several sectors and regions of the world to illustrate how
market coercion interacts with poverty to create a supply of people vulnerable to
forced labour.
Poverty and the market
e cold, hard truth of market societies is that you need wealth – or, more precisely,
money – to obtain the necessities of life and thus to survive. If you do not have mon-
ey and nobody is prepared to give you the food, water, medicine, shelter and other
things you require, you will die. is is the ‘invisible hand’ of the market in action.
Lacking money, huge swathes of the world’s population never enjoy the eective
power to say no to coercion or exploitation, and so are systematically vulnerable to
forced labour.
Supply 1 of 4: Poverty
Before delving into the data, it is important to be clear that this is not a natural
state of aairs. Nor is it an accidental but inevitable consequence of globalisation
and economic growth. Rather, poverty – along with the perpetuation of exploitative
labour relations – is written into the very DNA of global capitalism.4
We explored this theoretically in chapter 2 and gave an example of the peasant farm-
er accepting debt bondage as an illustration of how market societies force people
to accept exploitative work, prioritising short-term survival needs over long-term
economic security. In this chapter, we will provide further examples of the interplay
between poverty and forced labour to illustrate how global and national markets
rely on – and perpetuate – the supply of people vulnerable to exploitation.
The big picture
In 2015, the ILO estimated that more than 75% of the global workforce was in tem-
porary, informal or unpaid work, meaning that only a quarter of workers have the
security of permanent contracts.5 Four in 10 young workers are either unemployed
or working but living in poverty,6 while as of 2014, over 200 million people were
entirely unemployed. is is 31 million more than before the start of the global
nancial crisis in 2008,7 with that number being expected to increase further.8 In
fact, between 1981 and 2008, the number of people living on between US$1.25 and
US$2 a day doubled worldwide.9
Taken together, these statistics show that the ranks of the “working poor”10 are con-
stantly expanding. In a context where corporate prots are at their highest levels in
nearly a century,11 the majority of the world’s workers lack the certainty that they
will earn a sucient living from their work and almost half of the world’s working
young people have next-to-no income security. All of which raises the question:
why is poverty so resilient in the face of unprecedented wealth?
e restructuring of global and national economies along neoliberal lines (as de-
scribed in chapter 3) is a major part of the answer. For the past four decades, neo-
liberal restructuring has divorced millions across the global south from their means
of subsistence, whilst simultaneously slashing the social protection mechanisms on
which they and their families relied.12-13 Dispossessed and abandoned by the state,
they have had few means with which to resist being integrated into the cash econo-
my on unequal and oen highly coercive terms.
Supply 1 of 4: Poverty
In other words, the intensied need to obtain money to secure the necessities of
life has underpinned the integration of millions of people into the labour market,
but because they are poor, they have had very little scope or power to shape their
working conditions. ey have thus entered into dangerous, risky, insecure or poor-
ly remunerated employment relations, because doing so has been their only way to
meet urgent needs.
Adverse incorporation
Although the dominant understanding of poverty within mainstream economic
thinking is that it is ‘residual’ – a pure consequence of exclusion from the market
economy – research shows that one can be included in the labour market and still be
very poor.14 Indeed, for many people inclusion actually worsens their circumstances
and puts them at risk.
For example, Nicola Phillips and Leonardo Sakamoto’s mapping of forced labour
in Brazil’s cattle sector shows that those most likely to be in forced labour are not
actually the very poorest. For them, some social protections still exist. Instead,
those most at risk are earning slightly above the income threshold for social welfare
protections, and are therefore almost exclusively dependent on earned income to
survive.15People caught in this situation are commonly referred to as the ‘working
poor’ and, as noted above, their numbers are growing.
Phillips describes situations like what she and Sakamoto observed in Brazil as “ad-
verse incorporation.16 e central insight of this concept is that when people are
compelled to undertake wage labour on bad terms, this can entrench their pover-
ty and vulnerability by preventing them from accumulating wealth or achieving
long-term economic security. e dynamics of adverse incorporation are circular,
which means that while poverty shapes people’s vulnerability to exploitation, their
exploitation also reinforces their inability to escape poverty.17
e use of children to produce garments in home-based settings in India demon-
strates how this works. A survey conducted by Phillips shows that, out of a sample of
201 households, almost 70% used children to full piece-work orders from garment
manufacturers, and for the most part the children received little or no money for
their labour.18 is system of production will have both immediate and long-term
eects. By doing piece-work now, the children will likely eat tomorrow. However, the
self-reinforcing nature of their adverse incorporation means that working now will
make it less likely that they obtain better work in the future. By prioritising short-
Supply 1 of 4: Poverty
term survival over long-term security – when doing otherwise is extremely dicult,
if not lethal –they must forego schooling or other opportunities to strengthen their
bargaining power in the labour market. is prevents them from ‘upgrading’ to-
wards more skilled, secure and better-paid employment prospects and entrenches
their poverty further.19-20
The ‘multidimensional’ character of poverty
e experience of ‘poverty’ cannot therefore be reduced only to a lack of money.
Poverty is “multidimensional”, as economics professor Sabina Alkire has made clear,
meaning that those at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder are statistically
more likely to face a mutually reinforcing bundle of disadvantages that combine to
perpetuate their destitution.21 ese include poor health, poor sanitation, food in-
security or a lack of education. Each may interact with the lack of money to increase
an individual’s vulnerability to forced labour.
To take but one quantitative example, a multi-country study from the ILO examin-
ing the backgrounds of formally identied victims of forced labour nds that those
originating from food insecure households or households that have recently expe-
rienced a sharp decline in revenue are much more likely to end up in situations of
forced labour than others.22 In Nepal, for instance, only 9% of documented forced
labourers came from food secure households, in contrast to 56% who came from
households that were food insecure.23
Education is another good example of the multidimensional aspect of poverty.
Monetarily poor people are more likely to be educationally poor because they are
obliged to prioritise short-term survival over formal training. e child labourers
producing garments in India demonstrated this in the previous section. A lack of
education, in turn, reduces bargaining power in the labour market, making it more
likely that the only jobs on oer will come with poor conditions.24
Data from a range of studies now show a strong correlation between illiteracy or low
levels of schooling and the likelihood of experiencing forced labour. In Brazil, for
example, nearly 70% of workers identied by the government as “slaves” between
2003 and 2009 were either illiterate or had a maximum of four years of schooling,25
while in Armenia, Georgia and the Republic of Moldova, forced labourers were
found to be on aggregate less educated than the “freely employed.26
Supply 1 of 4: Poverty
Debt bondage and poverty’s many faces
Nowhere is poverty’s role in creating a supply of people vulnerable to forced labour
clearer than with debt. Debt, as anyone who has had any knows, can be a powerful
disciplinary mechanism.27 Loans or advances – along with other measures such as
withholding wages – are frequently used to discipline and coerce workers. In richer
countries, this aects migrant workers who take out large loans to fund their travel
and nd themselves with no choice but to work highly exploitative contracts to pay
them back.28-31 In poorer countries, debt captures and disciplines the working poor
who lack access to cheap credit and thus cannot absorb economic shocks when they
come along.
Verité’s reports on the Guatemalan sugar sector, the palm oil industry in Ecuador
and the production of electronic goods in Malaysia provide further evidence for
how the intersection of debt, withholding wages, and exploitative recruitment
practices increase workers’ vulnerability to forced labour.32-34 In Malaysia, 28% of
501 electronics workers were found to be in situations of forced labour, and more
than 80% reported paying excessive recruitment fees. In Guatemala, Verité found
that withholding wages and meals was a common punitive practice to ensure that
production quotas were met for farmworkers in the sugar sector. Other research
has found similarly punitive practices in use elsewhere, such as Ben Richardsons
work in the sugar cane elds of Brazil,35 and has conrmed the importance of debt
in keeping workers labouring under them.
Much research has also been done on debt bondage as it relates to health. Typically,
health expenditure is a major burden in countries where health coverage is poor
and/or not universally provided. To make matters worse, in rural areas where cash is
scarce, credit can be exceptionally expensive. at combination oen leads to debt
bondage, because when a family member is in need of urgent medical attention the
only option available is usually for another family member to take a loan against the
collateral of their future labour power.36-37
In short, poverty is not just about lacking money. It is an interlinking web of mutually
reinforcing disadvantages, which interacts with the demands of the market society to
shape people’s vulnerability to forced labour. e story does not stop there, however,
as we have yet to answer the question of why some people are more likely to be in
situations of poverty than others. Identity and discrimination play enormous roles in
determining who comes out on top, and it is to these that we now turn.
It is not uncommon for proponents of globalisation to view the in-
tegration of marginalised social groups into the global economy as
a positive step towards poverty reduction. However, as we showed
in chapter 4 with our discussion of adverse incorporation, it is possible for people to
be incorporated into the labour market, and still remain vulnerable to chronic poverty
and exploitative labour relations.
Discrimination on the basis of race, gender, caste and other factors shapes how
people are treated in the labour market, and helps to create and justify the supply
of people vulnerable to forced labour in the global economy. e “social categori-
sations”1 at the root of these various forms of discrimination are not ‘natural’, nor
are they new phenomena; they are rooted in the very same logics that justied Eu-
ropean colonialism, the transatlantic slave trade, and other non-European systems
of domination.2
5Identity and
Supply 2 of 4: Identity and discrimination
According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the incidence of forced
labour is particularly high among ‘scheduled’ castes and tribes in India, indigenous
minorities in Nepal and non-Muslims in Pakistan. In Africa, forced labour relations
are particularly prevalent in countries that experienced slavery, or where continuing
patterns of discrimination against people of slave descent are present. And in Latin
America, the majority of forced labourers are indigenous people.3-4
e fact that these particular groups are most likely to be found in situations of
forced labour suggests that the social discrimination leading to poverty and adverse
incorporation is intimately bound up with legacies of hierarchy, domination and
exclusion. At the same time, it is important to note that the dynamics fostering the
exploitation of marginalised communities are not mere remnants from the past:
they are actively reproduced and maintained by the global political economy.
is chapter looks at how the neoliberal restructuring of global markets has exac-
erbated social hierarchies and shaped long-lasting patterns of exploitation into a
continual supply of people vulnerable to forced labour.
Poverty and social discrimination
While some remain deeply invested in the idea that forced labour has nothing to
do with structural inequalities, or that in this context race and gender matter lit-
tle,5 there is an abundance of research that demonstrates that poverty and labour
exploitation disproportionately impact women, lower castes, and non-white and
indigenous people.6-8 And to the extent that they can be relied upon, statistical esti-
mates constantly reveal more women than men in forced labour and locate consid-
erably more forced labourers in Africa and Asia than in Europe or North America.9
As discussed in chapter 1, the restructuring of global markets has heightened the
demand for exploitable, ‘disposable’, and exible labour.10-11 For this reason, global
and domestic labour markets have become increasingly reliant on mechanisms that
deepen unfreedom and labour insecurity for large segments of the working poor.12
Within this dynamic, social discrimination serves as an “inequality-generating
mechanism13 that facilitates the wider patterns of poverty and inequality in which
GVCs are rooted.14 Why? Because if certain people are considered to be lesser than
others, they are more likely to face the poverty that facilitates their exploitation, and
to be viewed by society and employers as more justiably exploitable.
Supply 2 of 4: Identity and discrimination
For instance, gender inequality has been documented as a driver for export com-
petitiveness, because the segregation of jobs by gender tends to keep womens wages
articially low.15 is is what economist Stephanie Seguino calls the “comparative
advantage of gender disadvantage.16-17 It is important to note, however, that these
dynamics are also present in cases where women and men do the same work. For
example, Alessandra Mezzadri’s research into transnational garment production
shows that women are consistently valued less than their male counterparts and live
subject to both covert and overt forms of coercion and exploitation that their male
co-workers are spared. Most are paid less than men even when performing the same
tasks, and many have been the targets of gendered verbal or physical discipline on
the shop oor.18-19
is is compounded by other types of
gender-intensied constraints, such as
women’s asymmetric role in reproduc-
tive labour and the barriers they face in
accessing resources such as land, credit
and education.20 All these constraints
combined can make it much more dif-
cult for women to socially upgrade in
GVCs than men.21,22
Intersecting disadvantages
Gender disadvantages oen intersect
with other forms of disadvantage,
including those based on race. Cruz
Caridad Bueno has conducted re-
search with low income black women
working in export processing zones (EPZs) and as domestic workers in the Domini-
can Republic. Her conclusion is that they contribute to wealth and capital formation
for the homes and businesses that employ them, “but are limited in their ability
to accumulate wealth and human capital for themselves, because employers take
advantage of racial, gender, and class discrimination to devalue their work contri-
butions”.23 In simple terms, employers nd them suitable only for certain low-status
and low-pay jobs to which they are then eectively conned. Employers furthermore
take advantage of their prior exclusion from rights-based education and resulting
legal illiteracy to extract extra-legal labour from them. And, nally, employers rely
If certain people are considered
to be lesser than others, they
are more likely to face the
poverty that facilitates their
exploitation, and to be viewed
by society and employers as
more justiably exploitable.
Supply 2 of 4: Identity and discrimination
on the fact that most poor people with family responsibilities are rarely able to say
no to a job.
Of course, discrimination based on race or other factors impacts people of other
genders as well. In Brazil, for example, Nicola Phillips found that the overwhelm-
ing majority of workers identied as working in “conditions analogous to slavery”
on sugar plantations supplying the world market came “overwhelmingly from the
poorer regions of the country, with corresponding racial characteristics”.24 Sugar
production is extremely demanding and turns a prot by relying on hard physical
labour, yet employers do not look for just anyone willing to perform that labour. Re-
search shows that they specically seek out dark-skinned young males, since their
gender and racial characteristics are said to make them especially well adapted to
the work.25
Verité’s in-depth research into Peru’s and Ecuador’s labour markets tells similar sto-
ries of discrimination-based vulnerabilities. In Peru’s illegal gold mining industry,
indigenous Peruvians from remote areas were found to be the group most vulnerable
to forced labour and debt bondage. Known as indocumentados, they have no birth
certicates verifying their nationality and thus cannot acquire the national identi-
cation documents necessary to access jobs in the formal sector. is pushes them
into informal sectors such as the mining industry, where they lack the resources
and ability to report labour violations, and many end up trapped in dangerous and
exploitative conditions.26
In Ecuador, Verité found that women, indigenous people and people from African
descent working in the palm industry are substantially more vulnerable to labour
exploitation than other groups.27 Many Afro-Colombians and indigenous people
immigrate to Ecuador from Colombia precisely because they are unable to secure
decent jobs in their home country, only to be subjected to similar forms of dis-
crimination in Ecuador. eir irregular migration status further exacerbates their
race-derived vulnerability in the new country, a topic we will delve into more fully
in chapter 9.
Indigenous people frequently face restricted options for more reasons than a lack
of documentation. In addition to being subjected to chronic poverty,28 indigenous
people are usually deprived of land and other resources, which makes them espe-
cially vulnerable to exploitative labour conditions. We also see such dynamics at
work with caste.29 Recent research by Alpa Shah and Jens Lerche has conrmed that
Supply 2 of 4: Identity and discrimination
it is more dicult for members of lower castes and indigenous peoples in South
Asia to exit situations of extreme poverty and to benet from increases in income.30
Nicola Phillips’ research into garment production in Delhi corroborates the nd-
ings of these other researchers. In a survey of 220 households employing children to
produce garments, she found that 60% come from the very lowest castes.31 Research
conducted by the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO) and
the India Committee of the Netherlands (ICN) led to similar ndings: 60% of the
workers they interviewed in the spinning units of ve textile enterprises in Tamil
Nadu – a major production hub in the global garment sector – came from what are
known as ‘scheduled castes’ or other backward castes. And this type of caste-based
discrimination is also prevalent in tea plantations, brick kilns and mining quarries,
to name a few other industries.32-34
Deep structures
e many examples above illustrate that even if the lines dividing us were initially
drawn by elites bent on entrenching their domination, they have now evolved into
living systems that are constantly maintained and reproduced in the localised forms
of discrimination, coercion, and exploitation that comprise forced labour at the foot
of the global economy. Discrimination on the basis of gender, race, caste and ethnic-
ity, among other socially-constructed markers, shapes vulnerability to exploitative
labour relations and socially sanctions both exploitation and disadvantage.35 It also
prevents people who nd themselves in such situations from accumulating the nec-
essary wealth and resources to exit situations of chronic poverty or debt bondage.
Such systems “entrench a particular set of power relations in a given society”, con-
tribute to the exclusion of certain groups from access to wealth, and “give rise to and
structure patterns of poverty and marginalisation.36
In 2013, the Bangladeshi garment industry made headlines aer
the Rana Plaza factory building collapsed, killing more than 1000
people and injuring more than 1000 others.1 A year later, ram-
pant use of forced labour was documented in ailand’s shrimp industry, a major
supplier to the world’s largest retailers.2 And in 2017, shoppers at a Zara retail store
in Istanbul found messages sewn into clothing claiming garment workers were not
being paid. It was later discovered that Inditex, Zara’s parent company, had refused
to pay 155 labourers aer one of its factories unexpectedly shut down in 2016.3
ese high-prole cases are just a taste of the widespread and well-documented in-
stances of labour abuse occurring across various countries and sectors in today’s glob-
al economy.4-6 All involved workers who were le unprotected in part because they
were in non-standard forms of work: temporary work, part-time and on-call work,
contract and agency work, and false self-employment. Non-standard work is usually
associated with lower wages and fewer protections, as well as diculty in accessing
available protections. Non-standard workers are also disproportionately vulnerable
6Limited labour
Supply 3 of 4: Limited labour protection
to abuses such as wage the and illegal wage deductions, mandatory overtime, and
health and safety violations. As the International Labour Organisation (ILO) notes,
non-standard forms of work have become “a prominent feature of labour markets in
developing countries, and has grown in importance in industrialized countries. In
Bangladesh and India, nearly two-thirds of wage employment is casual”.7
e decline of ‘standard’ work and the labour protections that came with it has been a
major component of globalisation. For all workers this has meant greater diculty in
accessing the protections that are in place, and for the ranks of non-standard workers,
many of those protections are not available at all. Additionally, many governments
have exempted certain sectors and areas (e.g. export processing zones) from labour
laws and protections, such as those that govern minimum wage and overtime.
is has created a context in which various grades of labour exploitation are able
to thrive, including forced labour at the extreme end of the labour exploitation
continuum.8 Indeed, a core factor driving forced labour is the interaction between
workers’ individual vulnerability – which as we have shown, can be rooted in pov-
erty, adverse incorporation and intersecting forms of social discrimination – and a
setting in which workers can be exploited without impunity.9 is chapter looks at
how shis in the labour protection landscape have contributed to workers’ vulnera-
bility to exploitation, including forced labour.
From protection to precarity
Extensive research has documented the relationship between neoliberal market re-
structuring and the proliferation of unprotected, precarious form of work.10-15 e
workers who are the most likely to suer from labour abuses are those in low-paid,
informal and unorganised jobs16-17 and in sectors that are heavily reliant on exible,
temporary workforces.18
e expansion of precarious work globally has coincided with the rise of global pro-
duction networks.19 While later chapters explore in much greater depth how these
networks function, for the moment it suces to say that precarious work is attractive
for rms because it both reduces labour costs and absolves employers of responsibility
for their employees. As such, precarious work has become extremely widespread. A
2016 report by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) analysed the
global supply chains of 50 TNCs with a combined revenue of US$3.4 trillion, and
found that only 6% of their global supply chain workforces were directly employed. Of
the remaining 94%, large swathes were in non-standard employment.20
Supply 3 of 4: Limited labour protection
Neoliberal reforms have also created spaces of legal exception where production
takes place literally beyond the bounds of ‘mainland’ law, such as export processing
zones (EPZs).21-22 EPZs are industrial havens oering investors tax breaks and labour
law exemptions in an eort to attract their foreign capital. ey have exploded over
recent decades, increasing from 80 to over 3000 between 1975 and 2000.23 ey now
play a major role in many global supply chains. Research from a range of contexts
shows that labour standards within them are frequently poor, and workers caught
within them frequently face forced overtime, dangerous conditions, and widespread
gender or racial discrimination.24-26
Living with insecurity
ese shis have had dire consequences for workers. Alongside declining real
wages, many now-informal workers face increased exploitation, and a greater need
to accept dicult, dangerous and dirty work for want of superior alternatives.27-29
Informality has made them unprotected. A good example of this is the garment in-
dustry, where the proliferation of outsourcing labour from the factory to the home
has excluded home-based workers from certain labour protections, while also cre-
ating barriers to organising.30-31 e expansion of informalisation, temporariness
and exibility has also led to increased insecurity for workers,32 as it makes planning
for the future and bargaining to improve work conditions more dicult. Starting
workers on temporary contracts is a powerful way to keep them there, as it enables
employers to quickly jettison any workers attempting to organise.33
e widespread incidence of wage-related rights abuses has been widely document-
ed. One report by the Asia Floor Wage Alliance found that 73% of contract workers
and 50% of permanent workers across 36 seafood processing plants in southern
Bangladesh reported receiving less than the nationally set minimum wage. In many
sectors, including garment production, agriculture, and food processing, a shi
from hourly wages to a piece-rate system has also deepened workers’ income in-
sec urit y.34-36 Too oen, piece-rate salaries received by workers do not amount to
the minimum or living wage.37 And in many cases, already low wages are further
reduced by deductions for food and housing,38-39 and wage the practices – such as
late payments, non-payments, or denial of legally stipulated overtime rates.40
In addition to wage-related rights abuses, workers are also vulnerable to coercive
practices that could make them vulnerable to forced labour. In the US seafood
processing industry, for example, a shi from unionised workers to immigrant
labour provided by temporary work agencies has given employers greater ability
Supply 3 of 4: Limited labour protection
to implement low wages and substandard work conditions while evading liability.
A report by the National Guestworker Alliance found that many of these workers
faced immigration-related coercion (such as threats to call police or immigration),
the inability to change employers, and threats of blacklisting, physical harm and
sexual abuse.41
e Asia Floor Wage Alliance has also found that workers producing garments for
Walmart in supplier factories in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India and Indonesia face
threats of termination for refusing to work overtime or for exercising their right to
freedom of association.42 In many cases, gender-based violence or threats of vio-
lence can have similar impacts in terms of disciplining workers, as documented in
Bolivias cattle and Brazil-nut sectors,43 Bangladeshs shrimp industry,44 Ecuador’s
cut ower industry,45 and Guatemala’s palm oil sector,46 just to name a few. ese
forms of gender-based violence in the workplace make it particularly dicult for
women workers to bargain collectively and to advocate for better work conditions.47
The decline of collective action
e history of labour relations shows unquestionably that worker power lies in
numbers, with union strength consistently correlated with better working condi-
tions, greater respect for existing labour laws, and greater likelihood of worker re-
dress in the case of abuse.48-49 We know, for example, that in industries with strong
trade union representation, there are reduced rates of forced labour and other forms
of exploitation.50-52
We also know that where workers do not enjoy the right or ability to collectively
organise and defend their rights, they are more likely to experience individual and
collective forms of exploitation. Yet, governments all over the world have placed
limits on union activity. ese have ranged from denying the right of collective or-
ganisation to specic sub-sets of workers (such as migrants), removing the require-
ment for rms to bargain collectively, raising the number of members necessary to
form a union, setting mandatory participation rates in strike ballots and physically
preventing union formation.53-54
Union membership is thus everywhere down.55 In the United States, for example,
the rate of union membership was 10.7% in 2016, almost half the 20.1% it was in
1983.56 e ILO’s recent study of bargaining coverage in 48 countries found an aver-
age drop of 4.6% between 2008 and 2013, while the average decline in union density
over the same period and for the same group of countries was 2.3%.57
Supply 3 of 4: Limited labour protection
Absent state eorts to ensure workers’ rights to form unions and organise, it is more
dicult for workers to advocate for better work conditions or to report cases of
labour exploitation or forced labour.
Lack of enforcement
While gaps in both international and domestic labour laws certainly exist, most
labour violations occur when existing laws to protect workers are not enforced. An
acute example is minimum wage. Despite being addressed in most countries’ nation-
al laws as well as in international law, minimum wage requirements are continually
and consistently violated all along the supply chain. So too are safety regulations, so
too are holiday and overtime pay requirements.58
Part of the problem is that labour inspectorates face chronic personnel and fund-
ing shortages almost everywhere.59 Overstretched government agents are unable to
keep up with even formal enterprises, let alone the vast informal economy where
forced labour concentrates.60 is is of great signicance because research shows
that labour compliance is more likely where inspections are more frequent.61
Instead, severely strained labour enforcement authorities have looked for any way they
can to reduce their burden. One solution governments have hit upon is self-regulation
by the private sector. Business has promoted this idea as well, lobbying for the power,
legitimacy, and discretion to create and enforce their own rules.62 eir success has
given them freedom from oversight whilst also allowing them to market themselves
as ‘socially responsible. ese private corporate social responsibility initiatives have
well-documented aws, which we will explore in detail in chapter 11.63-66
ese dynamics are highly damaging for global labour. At the macro level, they
are reected in rising inequality, stagnant or declining real wages, and in capital’s
capture of an ever-increasing share of global value relative to labour.67-68 At the
micro-level they contribute directly to pushing workers into vulnerable ‘zones of
exception’ beyond the reach of protection, by fostering climates where labour ex-
ploitation and forced labour can thrive. In 2015, the ITUC found that almost half
of the 141 countries they examined had “systematic violations”or “no guarantee”of
labour rights.69 is is not a coincidence. e freedom from forced labour depends
on the capability of accessing external protection, and under the circumstances doc-
umented above far too many are unable to do so.
e rules governing people’s mobility within the global economy
are not neutral sorting mechanisms but tools producing dierent
categories of people able to enjoy dierent rights and freedoms.1
To be on the right side of them is to be able to move away from poverty, unem-
ployment, and labour abuses towards better work conditions, labour protections
and public safety nets. To be on the wrong side of them is to substantially lose one’s
freedom to say no to exploitative labour conditions. is is starkly reected in the
existing data on the link between migrant status and forced labour.2-5 As Nandita
Sharma puts it, “immigration policies [are] the vehicle through which [migrants’]
unfreedom is organized”.6 is chapter will examine how such policies operate in
the contemporary global economy to shape people’s vulnerability to exploitative
labour conditions amounting to forced labour.
Border controls
Migrant vulnerability to forced labour begins at the border. Although political
authorities routinely claim that tighter borders protect would-be migrants from
7Restrictive mobility
Supply 4 of 4: Restrictive mobility regimes
‘tracking, in reality borders increase the likelihood of migrants ending up in situ-
ations of exploitation.7-9 Aggressive border policies create a game of cat and mouse,
where those committed to moving must take evermore circuitous, dangerous and
illegalised paths to achieve their objectives. Success therefore comes with a price,
one which is frequently paid to smugglers and other intermediaries by taking on
debt. To repay these debts many migrants agree to debt-bonded forms of work in
hyper-exploitative conditions.10-11
Yet even people who arrive in a country legally can be placed at risk by restrictive
migration regimes. Certain categories of migrants – such as asylum seekers – are
denied access to the labour market or to social protections while they wait for a
decision on their status. In the United
Kingdom, the 2002 Asylum Act with-
drew the right to work from asylum
seekers as a means of deterring exces-
sive or ‘bogus’ applications, while later
legislation limited the extent to which
they can call on the state when in
need.12-14 ese changes have thrown
many into destitution, forcing them
to make do with limited state support
or enter the informal economy. When
they opt for the latter illegal and ex-
ploitative conditions oen await.15-17
Systemic vulnerability
Myriad studies have documented the
links between migration status and
vulnerability to forced labour.18-20 In the UK, researchers have shown this in low-
skilled or illegal sectors such as agriculture, construction and cannabis production.21
Similar results have been found in Italy’s agricultural sector, where tomatoes, oranges,
and other produce are predominantly harvested by African migrants caught between
needing to earn a living and being entitled to absolutely no state support.22-28
Irene Peano has been conducting research with these workers for several years and
observes that most “earn on average less than half the minimum wage established
by collective agreements. Worse still, “many work for a piece rate rather than an
hourly wage, and in most cases do so entirely outside the social security system.
Aggressive border policies create
a game of cat and mouse, where
those committed to moving
must take evermore circuitous,
dangerous and illegalised paths
to achieve their objectives. Success
therefore comes with a price.
Supply 4 of 4: Restrictive mobility regimes
Working hours greatly exceed those prescribed, and illegal gangmasters, frequently
employed to recruit and discipline the labour force, charge workers for transport to
the elds as well as accommodation.29-30
Although most of these workers do consent to their conditions, their freedom to
do otherwise has been radically curtailed by their extra-legal status. is status pre-
vents them from accessing state support and places high constraints on their ability
to secure the means of their own reproduction.31 is disadvantage is exacerbated
by racial discrimination and other aspects of agricultural production (such as the
low prices demanded by large buyers) to produce their exploitation. ey represent
a disposable labour force available when employers need them, yet those same em-
ployers have no responsibility for their welfare when they don’t.
Such dynamics also exist in countries across the global south. In India and China,
for example, governments have placed restrictions on the rights and entitlements of
migrants when they move internally from state to state. As a consequence, millions
of migrants eectively exit social protection when they leave their home states. Re-
searchers at Oxford University surveyed 7000 households in the Indian province of
Bihar, whose members usually migrate seasonally for work. ey found that 30%
were unable to access their entitlements to subsidised food when they did so be-
cause their ration cards were declared invalid at their destinations. Such limitations
signicantly increase the likelihood of people ending up in situations of abuse, since
they have no safety net in times of hardship and must rely on employers or labour
contractors for food, board and social support.32
Apart from geographic region, certain sectors are oen especially vulnerable to
forced labour because states place them outside the purview of labour law while
migrants are intentionally recruited into them. A study by the Organisation for
Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), for example, found that farm work
across the Global North is “exempt from requirements concerning overtime, rest
days, and health and safety standards”, as well as free from labour inspection.33 In
many instances, therefore, the only force available to ensure employers comply with
existing labour standards are the employers themselves.34 is, as the International
Labour Organisations’s (ILO) recent Economics of Forced Labour report highlights,
carries signicant risks for agricultural migrant worker safety.35
Worse still, certain governments place limits on the rights of migrants to collective-
ly organise in defence of their interests. e same OSCE study found restrictions
Supply 4 of 4: Restrictive mobility regimes
commonly applied to migrants’ rights to participate in trade unions or to form their
own unions. ese include “making citizenship a condition for taking a trade union
oce, stipulating that a proportion of the membership must be nationals, or linking
trade union membership to a condition of residence or reciprocity or both.36
Visa programmes
Temporary or ‘tied’ visa programmes are another important mechanism fostering
forced labour among migrants and restricting their ability to exert their rights. Such
visa programmes allow migrants to enter a country but only to work for one specic
employer or in one specic location. ey commonly apply to sectors which already
entail signicant worker vulnerabilities because of their geographical or social isola-
tion, such as agriculture, domestic work or care work.37-38 For example, workers on
visas such as the H2 Guestworker Programme in the United States or the Overseas
Domestic Worker visa in the UK are not permitted to change employer or to seek
alternative employment if and when problems with their current employers arise. If
for any reason they choose to leave their current employment relationship, they are
subject to deportation.39-42
e Kafala system, a visa sponsorship programme in Gulf countries, has also been
documented to foster exploitative labour conditions. Migrant workers to countries
like Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates experience what the Sarah Leah
Whitson, the executive director for the Middle East and North Africa Division of
Human Rights Watch, calls a “triangle of oppression, the three sides of which are:
heavy fees to labour brokers to secure a job, the conscation of their passports by
employers as soon as they arrive in their destination country, and the absence of
legal protections and recourses if they face abuse.43
Tied visa programmes inevitably create spaces of structural vulnerability.44 Many of
the workers on them are relatively poor, with family dependents back in their home
countries relying on their wages for school, healthcare or other necessities. Many
will also have indebted themselves heavily to fund their travel and the purchase
of their visa. ey thus face very high opportunity costs if they attempt to leave
their employment, even when that has become abusive or exploitative. And in many
cases, employers capitalise on these vulnerabilities and use threats of denunciation
as a mechanism for bolstering productivity or preventing migrant workers from
organising.45 As a result, although they may be formally ‘free’, the substance of their
freedom is severely curtailed by their lack of any meaningful freedom to exit this
labour relation.
Supply 4 of 4: Restrictive mobility regimes
We know that labour regulation, enforcement and organising are crucial for pre-
venting the exploitation of workers. Yet migrants frequently have no choice but to
work outside the reach of regulation and without the benet of collective action
due to the limitations that states place on their freedom. us while the prophets of
globalisation’ hold that markets bring liberty with them, in reality its distribution
is far from even.
Capital roams the earth freely but labour most certainly does not. Excluded from
wealth or adversely incorporated into the processes that generate it, many of the
world’s poor are denied their freedom to say no when – and especially when – they
choose to leave their homes in order to make more money elsewhere. eir contin-
ued exclusion is a result of immigration policies and consequently they live at a real
risk of forced labour. is risk is compounded by processes of social discrimination,
by the neoliberalising undercutting of labour protection, and by the creation of mi-
gratory regimes that entrench vulnerability. is is what it means to create a ‘supply’
of potential forced labourers. It is to the demand for their labour that we now turn.
e political economic forces creating a businessdemand for
forced labour are no more random than those creating a supply of
people vulnerable to it. Instances of forced labour are not – we re-
peat, not – the simple outcome of immorality among criminals or bad apple employers.
Although oen characterised as a hidden crime occurring randomly on the “under-
side of globalisation,1-2 in reality, forced labour is a stable and predictable feature of
many global supply chains. Just as we can understand the factors that make people
vulnerable to forced labour, so too can we trace the dynamics that underpin the
business demand for their labour. is section of the report draws together research
from across several sectors and regions to illustrate four key political economic driv-
ers of the demand for forced labour in supply chains. We begin with the increasingly
concentrated corporate power and ownership.
8Concentrated corporate
power and ownership
Demand 1 of 4: Concentrated corporate power and ownership
Corporate scale and prots
One of globalisations most striking features has been the massive growth of multina-
tional corporations (MNCs). As we explained in chapter 3, many of these companies
do not own or operate their own factories, but rather have redrawn global production
patterns to coordinate the making of the goods they sell across thousands of supplier
factories located around the world. Walmart, for instance, coordinates across over
100,000 suppliers.
e model of fast, high-turnover production that Walmart, H&M and others have
pioneered since the late 1990s has brought vast prots for the lead rms at the helm.
In 2017, Apple brought in over US$45 billion in prots,3 Disney brought in US$9.39
billion, and Nestlés prots hit US$8.65 billion.4 Walmart brought in US$481.3 billion
in net sales that same year, nearly 35 times the GDP of a small country like Jamaica.5
ese prots have been a driving force behind contemporary global inequality. e
2017 list of the worlds richest people is topped by Amazon founder Je Bezos (net
worth US$90.6 billion), Microso founder Bill Gates (net worth US$90 billion), and
Amancio Ortega (net worth US$83.2 billion), founder of Inditex fashion group, which
owns Zara. According to Oxfam, just eight men now control the same amount of
wealth as the poorest half of the planet.6-7 e global workforces working directly and
indirectly for these men and their companies largely come from this poor second half,
and – as the ‘supply’ section of this report makes clear – it is an understatement to say
that they have not beneted nearly as much as these men at the top.
Monopolisation and market power
In addition to making their founders and executives very wealthy, the size and scale of
todays MNCs gives them enormous market power, which is critical for understand-
ing forced labour. Swiss food giant Nestlé buys 10% of the worlds cocoa crop, 10%
of the worlds coee beans and 2% of the worlds milk and sugar.8 Companies have
also become conglomerates encompassing hundreds of brands: Unilever alone owns
over 400, including such major household names as Dove, Lipton, PG Tips, Vaseline,
Ben & Jerrys and Becel. e breadth of competition in many markets has lessened
as a result, and oen just a handful of companies hold virtual monopolies over entire
markets. For instance, roughly 80% of the global tea market is held by just three com-
panies – the Dutch-British Unilever, the Indian Tata Group and Associated British
Foods.9 Corporations vast market power allows them to dictate prices and margins in
global value chains (GVCs). Unsurprisingly, they do so in ways that allow them to ac-
crue huge prots while squeezing ever-lower margins down along their supply chains.
Demand 1 of 4: Concentrated corporate power and ownership
Examples abound. Four years ago, the major Canadian current aairs magazine
Ma c lean’s investigated the cost breakdown of a C$14 polo shirt, reporting that it
cost retailers only C$5.67 to produce, and of that, only C$0.12 went to workers.10
In cocoa, we know from research conducted by scholars at the Institute of Develop-
ment Studies that cocoa farmers in Ghana receive “just 4 per cent of the nal price
of an average UK bar of milk chocolate, with the lion’s share of the retail price going
to chocolate manufacturers and retailers.11 Similarly, a study of value distribution
in the production of Apple’s iPhone reveals that the majority of the money – 58.5%
– goes straight to Apple’s prots, while Apples suppliers receive a far lower propor-
tion; Taiwans prots are 0.5%, while South Koreas are 4.7%. In all, only 5.3% of the
value of an iPhone goes into the pockets of Apple’s global workforce.12
Stephen Roach, an economist at Morgan Stanley, has called this model of MNC
protability global labour arbitrage, referring to the enormous prots that MNCs
accrue through their systemic, near monopolistic control over the global labour mar-
ket.13-14 eir sourcing practices rely on, reinforce and seek to prot from countries
comparative advantages in terms of labour exploitation. In the garment industry
– as in agriculture and other industries with erce competition over prices – rms
like H&M decide where to source and manufacture goods primarily based on the
cost of labour, and as such they ‘comparison shop’ for places where labour remains
cheap (and by extension under-protected). It is no coincidence that, according to
H&Ms supplier list,15 the company primarily turns to countries with notoriously
low-wage garment sectors, like Bangladesh, China, Vietnam and ailand, to nd
this optimal combination.
Because of their size and market power, the prices MNCs choose to pay their rst-tier
suppliers have knock-on eects throughout the entire supply chain. ey aect not
only the margins of all downstream rms, as the following section explores, but also
the overall labour conditions of producing countries. For instance, the worlds second
largest clothing retailer, H&M, sources from some 1,900 [rst-tier] factories in which
about 820 suppliers … employ about 1.6 million people”.16 Beneath these factories
lies a web of smaller suppliers, conducting embroidery, printing, washing, spinning,
knitting, weaving and dyeing, along with cotton growing, trading, and ginning.
e price that H&M pays at the top shapes the working conditions of those below,
since each subsequent tier of suppliers must struggle over the remaining slice(s)
of the pie. As labour is usually a factory’s biggest cost – or at the very least its most
negotiable cost – the most obvious option for remaining protable is to further
Demand 1 of 4: Concentrated corporate power and ownership
squeeze workers in turn. As such, even if H&M does not consider cotton growers or
weavers to be its direct business partners, the rm nevertheless structures the world
in which they work.
Companies like H&M are quick to disclaim responsibility for this squeezing eect and
for the low share of value accruing to workers and rms deeper down in the supply
chain. ey even note on their website that workers are employed by the supplier –
and not by us. We neither set nor pay the factory workers wages and consequently, we
cannot directly decide what they are paid”.17 Technically this is true. But by dictating
value distribution along the supply chain MNCs give shape to the market structures
within which all those beneath them must work. e squeeze brought about by vastly
uneven value distributions has, by this point, oen become so tight that it fuels de-
mand for forced labour amongst businesses further down the chain.
Commercial pressures
e concentration of corporate power and ownership in lead rms not only allows
them to dictate value distribution along the chain but also the absolute size of the pie
to be shared. In other words, lead rms’ market power gives suppliers little choice
but to accept that the end retail price will remain low. In combination with unequal
value chain distribution this inescapably reduces prot margins further along the
chain, especially in industries where labour costs are a major expense of doing busi-
ness. ese trends have resulted in huge downward pressure on working conditions.
Major brands have consistently sought to drive down commodity and shop prices
in recent years, or to keep them there, and one way they have done this has been to
demand ever lower prices from their suppliers. is is especially true of competitive
industries where margins are oen already very thin. Faced with little choice but to
accept the new terms or be replaced, manufacturers have attempted to alleviate the
pressure by lowering their labour costs – oen the only cost that can be reduced
without sacricing quality. As one South African apple farm owner put it, the only
ham le in the sandwich is our labour costs. If they [the supermarkets] squeeze us,
its the only place where we can squeeze”.18
One of the starkest examples is the food and agriculture industry, in which an esti-
mated 1.3 billion people work.19-20 Over two decades of evidence make it clear that
downward pressure on prices in this industry create corresponding pressures towards
forced labour. Debt-bondage, underpayment of wages, and forced overtime have be-
Demand 1 of 4: Concentrated corporate power and ownership
come endemic to the cane industry, where the price of sugar has been steadily falling,21
while lower coee prices correlate with the increased use of forced labour. 22-23
Research across a range of industries suggests that businesses in tiers below the
top-tier rm have sought to lower labour costs in several ways. Allain et al. (2013)s
study of the business models of forced labour highlights three. First, they directly
lower labour costs by not paying the promised wage, openly paying below the min-
imum wage, and providing substandard accommodation for workers. Second, they
attempt to generate revenues from workers, such as by charging recruitment fees or
by overcharging for accommodation and other services. ird, they re-outsource
work further down the supply chain, or to agency workers through labour subcon-
tracting.24-26 All of these scenarios can introduce higher risks of forced labour, as
well as patterns of informalisation.27
Sometimes, suppliers respond to commercial pressures by introducing business
models congured directly around forced labour, using practices like debt bond-
age, forced overtime, illegal wage deductions, and physical, psychological, or other
forms of coercion in an attempt to further lower labour costs. Research on a number
of products – including sugar, garments, seafood, and electronics – has linked the
business demand for forced labour to pressure on costs and prices.28-33 Occasionally,
this occurs within the factories that supply directly to MNCs. For instance, a bed
supplier to UK department store John Lewis, Kozee Sleep, was recently convicted of
exploiting a slave workforce.34 is is in some senses unsurprising since, according
to one study of the UK garment industry, manufacturers oen have very low or
even no prot margins”. In such a situation the business demand for extremely low-
cost labour is painfully clear.35
Cases like Kozee Sleep, however, are relatively rare. Much more frequently we nd
that the businesses resorting to forced labour exist far from the public gaze and from
consumer-facing operations. ey are oen unregistered or informal organisations
with no ocial link to the brand. To understand how and why this occurs, we need
to take a closer look at outsourcing, and the research that documents higher prev-
alence of forced labour amongst outsourced portions of supply chains. It is to this
we move next.
Academic discussion regarding the business of forced labour
generally focuses on the role and responsibility of large mul-
tinational corporations (MNCs). is makes sense insofar as
MNCs are usually based in Western countries and wield vastly disproportionate
power within global supply chains. However, the overwhelming focus on MNCs
overshadows the aggregate importance of smaller subcontractors in shaping labour
standards, particularly those that ‘need’ labour exploitation to remain protable.
For this reason, it is equally important for us to understand how the dynamics of
outsourcing shape smaller businesses’ behaviour toward both their workers and
other rms within the supply chain.
In contrast to the academy, the media has made these smaller businesses the main
culprits in its reporting on labour exploitation. When forced labour happens, it is
typically said to occur in shadow or unregistered production centres several steps
removed from MNCs and far below where any reasonable due diligence might
reach.1 As if to conrm this, MNCs invariably express shock and disbelief when
Demand 2 of 4: Outsourcing
such reports break. Yet it is no accident that these practices occur in portions of
the supply chain where MNCs have limited formal presence. And, far from being
hidden or impossible to map, a growing body of research now shows clear patterns
regarding the types of businesses most likely to perpetrate forced labour, and the
relative importance of forced labour to their business model depending on their
sector, task, and location within MNC-dominated supply chains.2-6
Outsourcing is the crucial dynamic that allows labour exploitation to take place with-
out tarnishing the reputation or credibility of MNCs. It does this by fragmenting and
deecting responsibility for workers while making oversight and accountability for
labour standards dicult. e situation becomes even more complicated, and thus
opaque, when informal businesses or intermediaries such as labour brokers are pres-
ent. ese dynamics fuel forced labour
because the complexity and lack of
traceability introduced by outsourcing
make it easy for businesses to get away
with abuses, and because the legal
distance that outsourcing introduces
between lead rms and their suppliers
shields the former from reputational
damage and legal liability.
Outsourcing along product
supply chains
From electronics to sporting goods,
MNCs have outsourced lower-value
added activities to third parties. ose suppliers oen then further outsource parts
of the production – say, the making of microchips, or intricate leatherwork on a
football – to additional parties. Today, most product supply chains, meaning the
discrete stages that a product goes through to transform it from raw materials to
a nished product”,7 involve several stages of production. e more layers of out-
sourcing there are, the harder it is to track the working conditions surrounding the
creation of a product.
A burgeoning body of academic research reveals that forced labour oen occurs
in heavily outsourced portions of product supply chains. To take but one example,
Nicola Phillips major study of forced labour in Brazil shows higher levels of subcon-
tracting to be correlated with incidences of forced labour.8-10 It includes statistical
e more layers of outsourcing
there are, the harder it is to
track the working conditions
surrounding the creation of a
Demand 2 of 4: Outsourcing
analysis of data pertaining to more than 21,000 workers released from conditions
dened as slave labour between 2003 and 2009”,11 as well as qualitative research
conducted by Phillips and her team on value chains in Brazil. One key nding is
that the most severe forms of labour exploitation tend to occur in those parts of the
production process that are associated with outsourcing practices.12 Forced labour
was found to be concentrated in outsourced activities in such sectors as sugar cane,
soybean, cotton or coal (and also in urban sectors such as garments), [which] are
routinely associated with a higher incidence of slave labour’”.13
Evidence across a wide body of industries and locations conrms these links between
outsourcing and forced labour. Recent studies of shing,14-15 garments,16 electronics,17
agriculture,18 and construction19 all point to the concentration of forced labour within
subcontracted activities. Quantitative data, too, conrm that link. For instance, a 2013
study of more than 10 years of data by the Supplier Ethical Data Exchange (Sedex)
found that risk including the risk of forced labour is highest beyond tier one; 18%
more incidents of non-compliance with labour standards in the second tier, and 27%
more non-compliance in the third tier. It also found that non-compliance became
more critical and severe in the deeper tiers of the supply chain.20
In short, data from a range of studies now show that outsourcing contributes sig-
nicantly to forced labour. Because outsourcing has fragmented responsibility for
workers across several rms, and distanced the consumer-facing brands from bad
practices, it has created the conditions under which forced and exploitative labour
can be used, without damaging brand reputation.
Outsourcing along labour supply chains
Outsourcing along the labour supply chain, a part of which is made of oen un-
regulated networks through which forced or tracked workers may be recruited,
transported, and supplied to business by third party agents”, is equally important
for understanding forced labour in supply chains.21-22 As mentioned earlier, rms
have deepened their reliance on workers provided by labour market intermediaries
(agencies, gangmasters or recruiters) as a part of the larger project of globali-
sation. Recruitment agencies help companies avoid the costs of sustaining large,
permanent workforces by providing a parallel workforce of highly exible, casu-
alised workers to meet variable, just-in-time deadlines at low cost.23-27
Labour recruitment agencies also ‘outsource’ part of their work, so to speak, frequent-
ly working with other intermediaries who then work with others in turn. is can
Demand 2 of 4: Outsourcing
produce long labour supply chains that frequently involves exploitation well before
workers actually enter the factory gates. Apple recently acknowledged this when
noting that some of our suppliers work with third-party labour agencies to source
workers from other countries. ese agencies, in turn, may work through multiple
sub-agencies: in the hiring country, the workers home country, and in some cases,
all the way back to the workers home village”.28 Recognising that these practices fre-
quently create situations of bonded servitude, as the BBC put it, for factory workers
long before they enter the workplace, Apple has outlawed this practice amongst its
suppliers, mandating that they cover the cost of recruitment fees themselves.29
A number of recent studies have found that forced labour is widespread amidst long
and complex labour supply chains.30-33 While not all labour market intermediaries
are exploitative, some use forced labour as a revenue-generating and cost-saving
strategy. A string of recent studies suggests that forced labour is especially prevalent
among those providing labour at or around minimum wage.34-37 Indicators of it in-
clude contract substitution, passport retention, restrictions on mobility, predatory
recruitment fees, debt bondage, wage deductions and threats of penalty.
In all this, informality and exibility are key. As Allain et al. argue, although serious
levels of exploitation can be found among a range of such intermediaries, forced
labour typically emerges where an intermediary is operating at some level of in-
formality, at least for some period of time. e more legitimate the intermediary,
the less likelihood there is that they engage directly in forced labour.38 A wealth of
evidence pertaining to food and agricultural industries in many dierent regions
of the world suggests a similar conclusion, namely that informal subcontracting
among labour market intermediaries can introduce forced labour.39-42
Why is this so? In the rst case, it is oen signicantly easier to exploit agency or
broker-provided workers than a suppliers own employees, as they are not on the
books of the company who holds the supply contract, and therefore are oen over-
looked by labour standards, inspections and audits. Workers on the same job site
may also have several dierent employers, making oversight and accountability for
labour standards dicult. Furthermore, workers tend to be moved from worksite
to worksite in relatively short periods of time, and therefore oen evade any eorts
that may be in place to ensure labour standards.
Second, long labour supply chains oen exist in industries where price competition
is erce and the margins associated with some activities are very low, such as clean-
Demand 2 of 4: Outsourcing
ing services, construction or agriculture. In these industries, where there is intense
pressure to keep labour costs low, there is both pressure towards informality and to
over-work and under-pay informal, contracted workers.
Distancing big brands from big human rights abuses
Outsourcing fragments responsibility for labour standards and makes maintaining
oversight as well as determining accountability very dicult. It fuels the demand for
forced labour by making it easier for small businesses to get away with exploitation
while shielding bigger businesses further up the supply chain from reputational
damage or legal liability. is, in turn, makes it harder for workers, NGOs, unions,
lawyers and consumers to hold consumer-facing businesses to account. None of this
is accidental. MNCs and politically-aligned governments have been instrumental
in the neoliberal shis that have made outsourcing possible and that have limit-
ed the liability of MNCs operating from their jurisdictions. ey have pushed for
labour exibility and driven down the prices paid to top-tier suppliers, taking an
ever-greater share of value in the process. But the implications of their business
practices for forced labour go well beyond outsourcing and prot hoarding, and it is
to a number of especially nefarious others that we now turn.
Forced labour is illegal in most jurisdictions and expressly pro-
hibited in most multinational corporation (MNC) contracts and supplier codes of
conduct. It therefore carries risks for businesses who use it. For MNCs such risks are
generally conned to reputational damage, but for supplier rms the consequences
could include the loss of MNC contracts, the imposition of large nes, or even crim-
inal prosecution. So, when is forced labour ‘worth’ the risk?
Business Professor Andrew Crane has argued that a conuence of business con-
ditions and capabilities must come together to make forced labour a viable man-
agement practice.1 A growing body of evidence shows that one key factor shaping
these conditions and capabilities, and in doing so triggering the business demand
for labour exploitation, is irresponsible sourcing practices on the part of MNCs.
Such practices include short-term contracts, extremely tight production windows,
chronically delayed payments, and unfair or unreasonable payment terms. Because
buyers wield disproportionate purchasing power and inuence, suppliers oen
enter into commercial agreements that are dicult if not impossible to meet with-
10 Irresponsible sourcing
Demand 4 of 4: Irresponsible sourcing practices
out imposing harsh or unfair conditions on workers. Such conditions can include
excessive and compulsory overtime, illegal wage deductions or delayed payment,
punitively high quotas, physical abuse or discipline, constraints on freedom of
movement, repression of freedom of association, sexual violence, and harassment
and intimidation.
Sometimes suppliers resort directly to forced labour to meet their obligations.2-7
Others open the door to forced labour later on by engaging in risky practices like
unauthorised product and labour subcontracting.8 But regardless of whether the
consequences are immediate or time-delayed, the forces unleashed by irresponsible
sourcing practices almost invariably trigger a demand for labour exploitation some-
where along the supply chain.
Time pressures and unstable sourcing
Global production is widely reported to be speeding up. Companies are always
striving to oer customers something ‘new’, and a consequence of this has been
ever-smaller orders with ever-shorter turnaround times.9 ese time pressures fuel
labour exploitation across several sectors, from the production of high-end con-
sumer electronics and home goods to leather and footwear,10-13 but nowhere is the
issue thrown into such stark relief as in ‘fast fashion. Where it once took six months
for runway styles to hit high street stores and catalogues were designed around the
four seasons, we now see retailers with up to 52 season cycles, with a new product
line every week”.14
e enormous strain this places on suppliers and workers is further exacerbated by
price and quality pressures as well as smaller order sizes. A recent study of the gar-
ment sector for the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO)
nds that, without exception, clothing and textile researchers have been noting
how [lead rms] are insisting on lower prices, better quality, shorter lead times,
smaller minimum quantities and supplier acceptance of as much risk as possible.15
Forced labour in garment production is not new, and has been well-documented
among the unregistered factories, home workers, and contract and agency workers
working in many dierent national contexts.16-19 Yet as garment production has sped
up we have seen new challenges emerge that have further increased its likelihood.
To meet their obligations suppliers frequently pressure workers to work overly long
or consecutive shis for below-minimum wages while fullling extremely high
quotas.20-24 ey may also seek out workforces (e.g. children, refugees, irregular
Demand 4 of 4: Irresponsible sourcing practices
migrants) whose desperation, vulnerability and restricted mobility leave them with
little choice but to accept illegal working conditions.25-29 As we saw in chapter 5,
such populations also nd it dicult to resist or escape psychological or physical
coercion.30 Time pressures on tier-one suppliers, furthermore, are generally passed
down to the sub-tiers of the supply chain.
As just one example, the garment suppliers in Indias Tamil Nadu region are so
aected by this dynamic that the Sumangali system has now emerged, in which
young women live in company-controlled hostels with no freedom of movement
so that they will be available to work on call, wont seek work in other factories or
mills and will be deterred from joining a union.31 is need for instantaneous yet
cheap labour power is a direct result of decreasing production windows, and it fuels
the business demand for forced labour.
Research also suggests that the time-sensitive nature of some products, such as
perishable foods or seasonable goods, leads to predictable yet temporary concen-
trations of forced labour.32-34 Products like strawberries or tomatoes have very short
harvest windows, and at picking time suppliers need a large number of workers but
only for a short period. Articial Christmas wreaths or Valentines Day hearts are
produced under similar constraints, and to cope factories frequently must expand
their core workforces while keeping costs as low as possible in the process.
As we saw in the last chapter, this need is oen met through either labour sub-
contracting35-36 or subcontracting work to smaller, less formalised production sites.
ese include unregisteredfactories,where exploitative labour practices are a core
part of the business model,37 as well as informal and unregulated workers including
home workers.38-39
Instability within MNC sourcing practices adds to the pressure on supplier rms
to engage in forced labour. at instability takes many forms, including late-notice
alteration to the size, content or timing of orders. A recent study of the ‘root causes
of excessive overtime in Turkey’s garment industry, for example, found key issues to
be delays in the supply chain outside the vendor’s control, the limited ability of sup-
pliers to adapt to uctuating orders, sudden and large orders, the unpredictability of
future orders, last minute style changes and short lead times.40
Demand 4 of 4: Irresponsible sourcing practices
Falling prices
Changing price points are also signicant to the business demand for forced la-
bour. According to national consumer price indexes, the prices of key household
goods like clothing and food have fallen dramatically since the 1980s in many coun-
tries.41-43 Pressure on prices stems, in part, from MNCs competing to sell goods
to cash-strapped Western consumers, whose standard of living been hit hard by
neoliberal restructuring. Indeed, e Guardian recently noted that Britain is expe-
riencing a rapid decline in living standards with the biggest squeeze in workers pay
since 2014”.44 Downward pressure on prices puts producers at a disadvantage be-
cause buyers are not willing to pay as much for goods. And at the same time, many
producers face growing business costs because of everything from regulatory or
legislative changes to increasing commodity prices.45 is dynamic is oen referred
to by economists as the price-cost squeeze’.
MNCs use their disproportionate commercial power to maintain their own prot
margins even as prices fall. ey do this by passing costs onto already squeezed
suppliers. ese relentless and ever-worsening pressures around price and cost are
a key driver of forced labour in the global economy. Mark Anner, a professor of la-
bour and employment relations at Penn State University, once illustrated this point
in an interview using an anecdote from a factory he visited in El Salvador:
[e owner] explained that the statutory minimum wage had just gone up
by 10%. So, I asked her, ‘What did you do about it’? And she said she called
the lead rm that was providing her with her orders…and she told them
that she was going have to adjust her prices to reect the fact that she now
had to pay a higher statutory minimum wage. is was important because
we know that about 80% of her overheads were labour costs…e lead rm
paused for a moment and said, ‘No, you don’t understand, that is the price
point. ere is only one question and that question is, “Can you make this
order at this price point?” Because if you can’t, with one or two phone calls
we can move this to Haiti’. ‘So, what happened then?’, I asked her. She said
she got on the megaphone and basically told the workers that they had to
work 10% faster.46
e naked market power at work here is not uncommon in global supply chains. Al-
though the lead rm was not responsible in this instance for altering the price point,
it used its power to force its supplier to absorb the added cost of the recent shi in
production costs. When shocks like this happen, suppliers use several cost-mini-
Demand 4 of 4: Irresponsible sourcing practices
misation and revenue-generating strategies to mitigate the eects, including forced
labour. In this light, it is unsurprising that global data on forced labour indicates that
it is most prevalent in the agricultural sector,47 where producers have been badly hit
by rising costs of inputs (e.g. seeds and energy) and decreasing prices for their nal
goods (e.g. wool, sugar, beef, wheat).
MNCs further exercise their power by delaying payments to suppliers. Suppliers’
tight margins make it dicult to pay production costs up front and wait long pe-
riods to recoup those costs, yet this is exactly what retail buyers frequently com-
pel them to do. In the UK, Tesco has become infamous among farmers for this
reason.48-49 Despite the colossal prots Tesco makes, farmers report the company
disputes agreed payment plans, imposes penalties for crop deciencies, and makes
un-scheduled deductions for in-store promotions. Where farmers contest these
changes, further delays to payments can result, with the consequence that farmers
are unable to cover their own overheads and may be forced into debt or to transfer
their costs onto the labourers working for them.
In short, the unwillingness of MNCs to budge on their own prots – even in the face
of rising production costs and falling prices – is a key driver of the business demand
for labour exploitation and forced labour.
Today, the risks of forced labour are well documented. High-tech programmes also
exist to help companies measure and mitigate risks, and to prevent and address
forced labour in their supply chains. Yet, they continue to use irresponsible sourcing
practices that are established triggers of the business demand for forced labour.
As we will see in the next chapter, MNCs are investing considerable resources in
ethical certication schemes and social auditing programmes to combat forced
labour and tracking in their supply chains. Yet such schemes generally fail to ad-
dress the root causes of problems, such as time and cost pressures, and some place
even greater burden and punitive pressure on suppliers which can push problems
deeper into the shadows of supply chains.
A nal root cause underpinning the business demand for forced
labour are the governance gaps that allow employers to perpetrate it with impunity.
Although forced labour has long been formally banned, the laws designed to protect
workers are spottily enforced and it is rare that government inspectors physically
check to see whether or not businesses are selling goods made with forced labour.
Indeed, in the United States, one recent study found that an employer would have
to operate for 1,000 years to have even a 1 percent chance of being audited by De-
partment of Labor inspectors”.1
Where non-government monitoring systems also exist, they are generally ineec-
tive when it comes to detecting and correcting forced labour. Most social auditing
systems focus on rst-tier suppliers core workforces, and thus neglect the portions
of supply chains where vulnerable subcontractors work and the risks of forced la-
bour are highest. Furthermore, such private systems are riddled with conicts of
interest. When abuses are uncovered, they tend to be reported only to retailers who
then have discretion over whether or not to act on them.2-8
11 Governance gaps
Demand 4 of 4: Governance gaps
In this sense, businesses freedom to exploit must be understood as running in
parallel to workers lack of the freedom to say no. Klara Skrivankova of Anti-Slavery
International captures this point well when she says that forced labours underlying
causes include a regulatory framework in which the use of forced labour makes
business sense even if illegal, because the risks of discovery and prosecution are
low, [in light of] weak enforcement of labour standards”.9
e governance gaps and enforcement issues surrounding labour standards in glob-
al supply chains have been studied extensively.10-14 ere is also a smaller body of
emerging research that specically considers gaps surrounding forced labour.15-19
Synthesising across this work, we suggest that there are at least three key governance
gaps that have been strategically created around and within supply chains that facil-
itate the business of forced labour. ese are:
1. the consistent under-enforcement of national and sub-national labour
2. weak global governance and national legislative approaches to ensuring
labour standards in global supply chains, such as transparency legislation;
3. a governmental preference for self-regulation and corporate social re-
sponsibility (CSR) initiatives, which are too oen not t for purpose
such as poor quality auditing and social certication programmes.
At the outset of this report, we noted that globalisation has been characterised by de-
clines in the national enforcement of labour standards.20-26 In chapter 5, we showed
how dangerously low levels of labour inspection create a pool of workers who are
vulnerable to forced labour. Here, we show how poor enforcement of national and
sub-national labour laws also contributes to businesses demand for forced labour.
Poor enforcement of labour standards
Across many countries, national and sub-national agencies tasked with enforcing
labour standards have had their budgets and sta cut to the extent that they are no
longer eective. is makes it unlikely that businesses will be caught committing
labour violations. If they are, the consequences are rarely more than a minor incon-
venience; the penalty for violating the labour code in Bangladesh, for example, is a
mere US$325.27 is creates a context in which businesses can safely include forced
labour within their business model.
Demand 4 of 4: Governance gaps
While unenforced labour standards are oen considered to be a developing coun-
try problem, they contribute to the thriving business of forced labour in developed
countries as well. As Allain et al. (2013) demonstrated in their study of forced labour
in the UK, vulnerability to forced labour is not an inherent quality of the person
subjected to it, but rather is rooted in structural vulnerabilities established within
the UK economy. ese result in denying eective protection for workers’ rights,
particularly at the lower rungs of the labour market. ey found that this context
creates an environment where it makes business sense to use forced labour”, which
they then demonstrated using the commercial cannabis, food and agricultural in-
dustries as examples.
e under-enforcement of labour
standards has become a popular strat-
egy for attracting and maintaining
investment, or for preventing oshor-
ing, in the era of globalisation. It is
part of an ongoing redesign of the la-
bour market and business regulation
to maximise protability.28 Conse-
quently, illegal business practices like
forced labour have become stable and
now constitute viable parts of many
organisations business models.
Weak global governance
As awareness of forced labour has
grown over the past decade, a number
of transnational regulatory initiatives have sought to incentivise corporate account-
ability and responsibility for labour standards in global supply chains. ese in-
clude the 2011 United Nations Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights,29
ILOs Protocol of 2014 to the Forced Labour Convention, 1930,30 and revised OECD
Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.31
In addition, the home governments of many transnational corporations (TNCs)
– including the United States, UK and France – have passed national legislation
intended to strengthen global governance systems to combat forced labour. is
has frequently taken the form of transparency or disclosure legislation. One study
found that over 55 pieces of national disclosure legislation have been passed since
One recent study found that “an
employer would have to operate
for 1,000 years to have even a 1
percent chance of being audited
by Department of Labor
Demand 4 of 4: Governance gaps
2009,32 and high prole examples include: the 2015 UK Modern Slavery Act, 2012
California Transparency in Supply Chains Act, and Frances 2017 Corporate Duty
of Vigilance Law. As the authors of the study describe, this type of legislation relies
on the economic leverage of the private sector to shape and improve working con-
ditions and is anchored in the assumption that knowledge of corporate behaviour
will shape consumers and investors purchasing decisions.33
Transparency legislation varies hugely in terms of its quality and stringency. As
Genevieve LeBaron and Andreas Rümkorf note:
at one end are strong laws that mandate companies to develop a due dil-
igence plan on human rights in their supply chain, to disclose this plan
and to implement it. At the other end are weak laws that merely provide
statutory endorsement to existing voluntary CSR initiatives and reporting,
with no penalty for non-compliance. Most recent legislation falls towards
the weaker end of the spectrum.34
e UK Modern Slavery Act, for instance, requires companies conducting business
in the UK with an annual turnover of £36 million to report on any measures they
have taken to prevent or address forced labour. But it does not require them to
report whether those measures are actually eective, and does not include penalties
for non-compliance. is leaves open the quixotic possibility of brazenly reporting
that they are doing nothing. To date, the enforcement of transparency legislation
has also been lacking.35-42 Only a fraction of companies covered under the UK leg-
islation have published reports, and many of those that have been published have
fallen short of complying with the law.43-44 No companies have been prosecuted for
non-compliance. As such, this legislation has upheld the status quo and done little
to curb the root causes of business demand for forced labour.
Recent initiatives to address the business of forced labour within the global gover-
nance arena have been similarly ineective. e ILOs 2014 legally binding protocol
on forced labour, for instance, does not include a provision on supply chains, while
eorts to achieve a binding convention on decent work supply chain governance have
yet to bear fruit.45-47 In short, research suggests that a key factor underlying the busi-
ness of forced labour is the failure of states to either enforce existing labour standards
or to create new, modern, and eective global governance solutions to the problem.
Demand 4 of 4: Governance gaps
Weak social auditing and ethical certication regimes
Governments have sought to replace their own enforcement capacity by devolving
sizeable power, authority and legitimacy to private companies to set and enforce
their own labour standards.48-51 In this context, TNCs have created codes of conduct
for suppliers, which they claim to monitor and enforce through social auditing.
ey also rely on social certication schemes like Fairtrade and Rainforest Alliance
to independently verify production standards and communicate these to consumers.
However, a growing body of research reveals that social audit and certication pro-
grammes are not eective tools to detect, report or correct forced labour.52,53 Some
of their most crucial shortcomings include:
Limited audit duration, resulting in a snapshot of practices rather than
long-term observation;
Weak audit methodologies with ample room for deception and cheating;
Financial conicts of interest and commercial relations between audit
rms and their clients;
Failure to encompass practices occurring beyond the factory gates, such
as debt bondage to recruiters;
A focus on rst-tier suppliers core workforces rather than the many
layers of sub-contracting;
Marginalisation of workers, who are most aware of how forced labours
manifest on the ground, during the audit process.
Many social auditing programmes therefore give a blinkered view of who is in-
volved in production, missing out on vulnerable workers in heavily subcontracted
and informal portions of supply chains.54-55 ey give consumers, investors, and the
public a false impression of labour standards within supply chains, and give rise to
the perception that governance gaps surrounding forced labour in supply chains are
being mitigated through voluntary CSR eorts. In reality, such systems do little to
tackle the problems at hand.
Demand 4 of 4: Governance gaps
Briey put, the inspection and auditing system for global supply chains does more to
safeguard corporations’ reputations, operations, and prots than protect workers in
both developed and developing countries.56 As LeBaron et al. have argued, for nearly
two decades, workers rights and trade union organizations, scholars, and auditors
themselves have documented the aws of the audit regime; yet, corporations have
done little to transform it. e problem is not one of nessing the institutional design
or audit methodology, but rather relates to corporate power, politics, and prots”.57
Weaknesses in private supply chain monitoring systems render them ineective
tools for detecting and addressing forced labour. ey are, along with weak enforce-
ment of labour standards and poor global governance frameworks, a key gover-
nance gap fuelling the business demand for forced labour.
Existing research suggests that forced labour tends to happen in certain types of in-
dustries, activities, and portions of supply chains. It furthermore materialises in the
face of specic business pressures, such as cost and time pressures and seasonality.
Yet, these insights about the patterns of forced labour in supply chains have not been
incorporated into the latest governance initiatives, which systematically under-pro-
tect workers by leaving open gaps in which exploitation can occur without redress.
Adequate regulation and enforcement of labour standards within global supply chains
would go a long way to eliminating the business demand for forced labour within
those chains. And, as the next and nal chapter of this report notes, where labour law
is eectively enforced, and where businesses face consequences and penalties if they
are caught using forced labour, it becomes a lot less viable as a business model.
e key barriers to closing these governance gaps are not technical, but political.
As Nicola Phillips and Fabiola Mieres note, they derive from an unshaken market
fundamentalism and a reluctance signicantly to challenge the private sector and
powerful corporations”.58 It is time for that to change.
Globalisation’s promise was to pull people out of poverty by inte-
grating them into the world market and oering them decent work. It hasn’t deliv-
ered. Today, hundreds of millions of people are unemployed; more than 75% of the
global workforce is on temporary or informal contracts; the ranks of the working
poor are expanding daily; the provision of social and labour protection has been
reduced; migrant rights are under threat; and exploitative as well as forced labour
appear endemic in a number of industries. What is worse, many of the policy eorts
aiming to address these problems don’t seem to be working. What, therefore, is to
be done? In this, our concluding chapter, we point in a number of promising new
directions and outline the kinds of actions that can be and have been taken, as well
as suggest several avenues of research that could help strengthen the evidence base
on exploitation in the global economy.
What do we know?
First, let’s review: this report has explored the structural root causes of forced labour
in global supply chains. Our core message has been that those roots lie in systemic
12 Where do we go from
Conclusion: Where do we go from here?
features of the contemporary global political economy, and that forced labour can-
not be successfully tackled without changing these dynamics.
e mechanics and structures of the contemporary global economy create both
a ‘supply’ of vulnerable workers and a business ‘demand’ for their labour. On the
supply side, the key dynamics include poverty, social discrimination, limited labour
protection, and restrictive mobility regimes. ese, both on their own and in inter-
action with each other, create a global workforce vulnerable to exploitation. On the
demand side, what matters most is the concentration of wealth and ownership, the
business models structuring supply chains, major rms’ power to dictate the rules
of global production, and the manifold governance gaps which make the business
of exploitation not only viable but protable.
ese features of the world economy have not evolved spontaneously. Rather, they
have been set in motion or catalysed by elite-led processes of neoliberal globali-
sation that have dramatically changed approaches to economic regulation. States
have been fundamental to their institutionalisation, curtailing the structural and
individual power of workers to say no and intensifying the structural and individual
power of employers to compel them to accept dangerous, risky, and exploitative
work. is means that the root causes of forced labour are fundamentally and in-
herently political.
It follows that states and political institutions must take responsibility and push
towards genuine solutions. On the supply side, this means tackling distributional
questions about poverty and inequality, creating and enforcing meaningful forms of
labour and social protection, and responding humanely to the complex dynamics of
migration. On the demand side, it means grappling with the dynamics of subcon-
tracting and outsourcing, including in long, complex and informal labour supply
chains. It also means asking fundamental questions about the role and power of
corporations in the twenty-rst century.
What do we still need to learn?
Much is known about the political economy of forced labour, but even more re-
mains to be learned. We need detailed, in-depth and comparative research, with a
special focus on causes as well as on the people, institutions and organisations that
make the causes of forced labour possible. Below are a few of the key themes that are
most urgent for scholars and activists to address.
Conclusion: Where do we go from here?
Political economic policy: It is clear that states produce the conditions needed for
forced labour to remain part of many protable business models, even as sitting gov-
ernments claim to champion anti-slavery causes. ey do this through their political
and economic policies relating to labour markets, to immigration and to the regulation
of rms. Further research is needed to establish the links between political economic
policy frameworks and the prevalence of forced labour and exploitation.
Corporate self-regulation: We know that allowing businesses to police themselves
is not enough and we know that the non-enforcement of labour standards helps
make forced labour a viable business model. However, further research is needed to
understand when, why and how public and private governance of labour standards
fall short, and to establish which alternative models of governance could address
these failings.
Inequality: e widespread use of forced labour in the contemporary global econ-
omy is rarely linked to soaring inequality. Yet our research has led us to believe that
the two trends are strongly connected. Although neoliberal discourses have eec-
tively divorced ‘poverty’ from ‘inequality’, arguing that only the former is a prob-
lem,1-2 the latest research on inequality3-6 and the social nature of power7-8 suggests
that inequality is in fact causally related to poverty, with higher rates of inequality
worsening deprivation. Further research is needed to understand how income and
wealth inequality inuence the prevalence of forced labour, as well as to explore
forms of wealth redistribution that can successfully address it.
Beyond these big questions, it is also clear that we need focused research into spe-
cic supply chains. Scholars must map the length, breadth and depth of individual
chains to parse out the distributions of prot and value between actors along the
chain, as well as the labour practices linked to these patterns of distribution.
What is to be done?
ankfully, although more work is needed, a wealth of struggles from all over the
globe are pointing the way towards policies and actions able to push back against the
root causes of forced labour. Although these neither form a cohesive global move-
ment nor work from a single overarching theory, they include promising initiatives
that together form the pillars of an emerging framework for pushing beyond our
current neoliberal impasse. Below, we explore a number of promising initiatives to
address both the ‘supply’ and ‘demand’ factors that we have identied.
Conclusion: Where do we go from here?
Enforcement of labour standards and innovative, worker-led models: An im-
mediate and obvious starting point for better enforcement of labour standards is
for states to reverse the labour reforms pushed through by neoliberalisation and to
drastically increase both the size and mandate of their labour inspectorates. is
will require altering budgetary priorities in favour of workers and their rights. Oth-
er promising strategies to bolster workplace standards and decrease exploitation
include: the creation of penalties for businesses who violate labour standards, such
as Brazil’s ‘dirty list’ for companies found to have used forced labour;9 targeted en-
forcement of labour standards in sectors and portions of the supply chain with the
highest risks of exploitation;10 and the protection of collective action and the right
to organise.11 Given the growing evidence that these new strategies are eective in
reducing exploitative practices in supply chains, their potential to reduce forced
labour should be investigated and bolstered further.
However, in recent years, as governmental monitoring and enforcement of la-
bour standards has decreased, workers’ organisations and advocacy groups have
pioneered their own alternative strategies to protect workers from exploitation.
ese include innovative models of labour standards enforcement, such as formal-
ly including unions and workers’ centres as monitors. Found mainly in low-wage
sectors in the United States,12-13 these models of “co-produced enforcement14 have
led to decreases in wage the, unsafe working conditions, discrimination and gen-
der-based violence, and have facilitated the refunds of illegal wage deductions to
workers.15 e Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a farmworker organisation based
in Florida, has pioneered this type of worker-led labour standards enforcement16
and underpinned it with a worker-draed code of conduct agreed to by partner
rms. Worker-driven social responsibility initiatives have been demonstrated to
protect and improve conditions for vulnerable and low-wage workers. As such, they
should replace traditional, industry-led corporate social responsibility (CSR) initia-
tives – the shortcomings of which have been well-documented – to address forced
labour in supply chains.
Value re-distribution and living wages in global supply chains: Activists and
workersorganisations are putting forward a number of novel bargaining strategies
to capture a greater share of the value they help to produce, and to achieve living
wages in global supply chains. One example is the Asia Floor Wage Campaign,17
a regional initiative to establish a living wage for garment workers across Asia by
bargaining with big brands at the helm of clothing and apparel supply chains. By
raising the wage oor for all workers within a regional sector, this type of initiative
Conclusion: Where do we go from here?
could reduce the demand for forced labour in global supply chains since it ensures
workers get a larger share of the pie.
Increased public goods provision and basic income: If being poor increases a
person’s vulnerability to forced labour, then policies that reduce poverty will likely
reduce the supply of people vulnerable to exploitation. In the age of neoliberalism,
with public goods privatised and social protections rolled back, the obvious option
is to reverse the neoliberal trend – pushing towards increased social protection,
stronger safety nets, more extensive public goods provision, and greater redistribu-
tion of wealth.
One potential option for doing this is Unconditional Basic Income (UBI). UBI is
dened as a regular payment given to all people without means test or work require-
ment. It seeks to give all people a solid material base, which could in turn provide
them with the monetary security they need to walk away from forced labour. Al-
though it has long been theoretically attractive,18 it is now increasingly being tested
empirically. UBI is currently being piloted in several locations around the world, and
the recent results of a UNICEF trial in India are arresting.19 ere, UBI led to an in-
crease in economic activity among the poor and generated improvements in health
and welfare indicators ranging from nutrition to sanitation. Its eects also worked
against traditional axes of discrimination, resulting in greater benets for women
and the poor than men and the wealthy. Most signicantly, however, it engendered
a clear decrease in debt bondage, as poor villagers were able either to pay o their
debts or to accumulate sucient cash reserves to avoid indebting themselves in the
rst place. Given these results, the potential of UBI to contribute to a decreased sup-
ply of vulnerable workers should be further explored, in particular with populations
vulnerable to or currently experiencing exploitative or forced labour.
Yet cash alone may never be enough. For this reason, we must also explore modali-
ties for the provision of basic needs outside of market relations, such as cooperative
natural resource management, land redistribution and legally enshrined guarantees
of the means of subsistence to all.
Better immigration policies and the ‘employer pays’ principle: If punitive mo-
bility and border control regimes facilitate the use of forced labour, then it follows
that policies to ensure safe passage and improve conditions and rules for migrant
workers must play an important role in curtailing the supply of workers vulnerable
to forced labour. Around the world, migrant workers and migrant rights organisa-
Conclusion: Where do we go from here?
tions are pushing for better policies and protections to address the exploitation and
untimely death20 of migrant workers. ey are pioneering strategies to protect and
empower migrant workers from forced labour. One promising idea that features in
many such strategies is the “employer pays principle.21 is recognises that many
migrant workers are made vulnerable by the recruitment and service fees they pay
to obtain jobs, and seeks to alter that dynamic by shiing the nancial burden of
recruitment to the employers instead.
Eorts to address the vulnerabilities shaped by immigration policy must be closely
intertwined with the robust labour standards enforcement systems described above.
As Janice Fine and Gregory Lyon, both professors at Rutgers University, have argued,
“preventing the exploitation of vulnerable low-wage immigrant workers requires
integrating into immigration reform proposals signicantly strengthened labour
standards enforcement”.22 We must be careful though. While all of these strategies
are promising methods of curtailing the immediate crisis of widespread worker
vulnerability to forced labour, they do not fundamentally transform the power dy-
namics between employers and workers, nor do they disrupt the political economic
processes – such as inequality, immiseration, privatisation or land enclosure – that
shape the global political economy.
Better governance, including a binding global convention on labour standards
in supply chains: Traditional, national, regulatory frameworks – particularly where
they are poorly enforced – have proved insucient for governing labour standards
in global supply chains. Put less kindly, they frequently facilitate the use of forced
labour by overseas suppliers in global supply chains, and obstruct eorts to hold
multinational corporations (MNCs) accountable for the exploitation involved in
the creation of their products.23 Stronger governance is needed to eectively curtail
MNCs’ ability to legally distance themselves from the abuse and exploitation inher-
ent to their business models and triggered by their purchasing practices.
Activists have called for a binding global convention on labour standards in sup-
ply chains to close existing legal gaps and loopholes.24 eir demand is backed by
mounting evidence that direct MNC accountability for working conditions in their
global supply chains is eective in combatting exploitation. For instance, the Accord
on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh,25 signed by major garment companies
following the Rana Plaza collapse in 2013, has led to improved safety, stronger
labour rights and reduced exploitation. Stronger governance – including through
initiatives that establish legally binding accountability for lead rms for working
Conclusion: Where do we go from here?
conditions along their entire supply chain – is a promising strategy to address the
business demand for forced labour.
Joint employer and intermediary liability: e rise of labour market intermediar-
ies – including labour providers and contractors, labour agencies, and gangmasters
– means that today, a large number of workers are working under the supervision
and management of companies who are not technically their employer. As this re-
port has documented, such workers oen face challenges when seeking to organise,
bargain or access labour protection, and in some contexts they are disproportion-
ately vulnerable to exploitation.
In the United States, a wave of recent court decisions across national and state juris-
dictions have conrmed that companies and labour market intermediaries can be
joint employers’, in other words, that companies using temporary stang agencies,
labour providers, and other sub-contracting arrangements are not insulated from
responsibility for those workers conditions. Trade unions and workers organisa-
tions are pushing for broad application of the joint liability principle26 in relation to
global supply chains. e International Trade Union Confederation, for instance,
has called for multinational brands to accept joint responsibility for working condi-
tions in their global supply chains, particularly around wages and health and safety.
Such campaigns are promising and deserving of support. An important challenge in
this work, however, is enforcement and implementation. As the lawyer and scholar
JJ Rosenbaum has argued, business entities expand their use of contingent work
arrangements because these arrangements lower labour costs and in practice oen
shield liability even when the law says otherwise. e power of a joint employer
liability legal regime – whether USDOL, ILO or any other – rests signicantly in the
eectiveness of its enforcement arm”.27
Anti-discrimination measures and ‘positive action’: Chapter 5 explained that dis-
crimination on the basis of race, caste and gender is fundamental to forced labour.
ese hierarchies intersect with class and other forms of inequality to heighten
some peoples vulnerability to exploitation vis-à-vis others. A systematic political
response to their heightened vulnerability will necessarily have to address these
systems root and branch – challenging the patriarchy, racism, white supremacy, and
so on. Doing so will undoubtedly be complex. But examples of state-led ‘positive ac-
tion’ do exist. Economic reforms include equal pay legislation, recruitment quotas,
and well-enforced anti-discrimination legislation. ‘Social’ measures with economic
Conclusion: Where do we go from here?
eects include parliamentary quotas for previously discriminated against groups,
reparations, or the provision of preferential public service access. Further initiatives
can be taken beyond the state-level, and support for community self-organisation
and collective action is key. e Self-Employed Women’s Association are a great
example of the power of this in India.28
Restrictions on subcontracting: Subcontracting introduces inherent risks into sup-
ply chains by limiting lead rms’ liability for working conditions and by reinforcing
low prices as the key to suppliers’ success.29 e evidence documented in this report
compels us to question whether it will be possible to eradicate forced labour from
global supply chains without alterating this low-cost business model.
e ILO’s Declaration of Philadelphia (1944) urges that “all human beings, irre-
spective of race, creed or sex, have the right to pursue both their material well-being
and their spiritual development in conditions of freedom and dignity, of economic
security and equal opportunity”. ese conditions are profoundly undermined by
the immiserating processes of uneven global neoliberalisation. ose processes,
which result in clear inequities and injustices, reveal how little “the attainment of
the conditions in which this shall be possible … constitute the central aim of na-
tional and international policy”. e opposite indeed seems to be the case, with the
consequence that millions worldwide are being denied the freedom to say no to
exploitative work.
It is time for that to change. With the Eighth Sustainable Development Goal, the
world has committed to taking all necessary steps to achieve “decent work for all
and to “end forced labour” by the end of the next decade. Alliance 8.7 has been es-
tablished to maintain momentum towards that target, and governments worldwide
are making pledges that they will meet it. Here, we outline a number of critical
strategies that can help them to meet that goal. Ultimately, if we are serious about
addressing unfreedom in the global economy, then we need to think seriously about
political economy. We need to confront and tackle root causes.
Chapter 1: The political economy of forced labour
1. International Organization for Migration ‘Counter-tracking: our approach’. https://www.cking
2. Walk Free Foundation (2017) ‘Select Committee on Human Tracking Inquiry
into Human Tracking (NSW)’.
3. ILO (2014) ‘Prots and Poverty: the Economics of Forced Labour’, Geneva: ILO. http://
4. F. W. Mayer, N. Phillips & A. C. Posthuma (2016) ‘e political economy of governance in
a ‘global value chain world’’, New Political Economy, 22(2), 129-133.
5. M. Dottridge (2014) ‘Editorial: How is the money to combat human tracking spent?’,
Anti-Tracking Review, 3. http://www.antitra
6. P. Dauvergne & G. LeBaron (2014) Protest Inc.: e corporatization of activism, Cambridge:
Polity Press.
7. A. E. Moore (2017) ‘Rich in funds but short on facts: the high cost of human tracking
Beyond Tracking and Slavery.
8. D. Bose (2016) ‘Dhaka’s ‘victims of tracking’: locked up for their ‘own good’’, Beyond
Tracking and Slavery.
9. E. Shih (2015) ‘e anti-tracking rehabilitation complex: commodity activism and slave-
free goods’, Beyond Tracking and Slavery.
10. K. Kempadoo (2015) ‘e white man’s burden revisited’, Beyond Tracking and
11. N. Sharma (2015) ‘Anti-tracking: whitewash for anti-immigration programmes’, Beyond
Tracking and Slavery.
12. K. Walters (2017) ‘Rescued from rights: the misogyny of anti-tracking’, Beyond Tracking
and Slavery.
13. K. Bales (2007) Ending Slavery: How We Free Today’s Slaves, Berkeley: University of
California Press.
Chapter 2: Forced labour and the meaning of freedom
1. ILO (2012) ‘ILO Global Estimate of Forced Labour: Results and methodology’, 19. http://
2. Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations
(CEACR) (2007) General Survey on Forced Labour, Geneva: ILO, 20–21.
3. R. J. Steinfeld writes in his book Coercion, Contract, and Free Labor in the Nineteenth
Century (1991) that they choose the lesser of their two “disagreeable alternatives” (301).
4. S. Castle & A. Diarra (2003) ‘e International Migration Of Young Malians: Tradition,
Necessity Or Rite Of Passage?’ckingreport_-
5. T. Bastia (2005) ‘Child Tracking or Teenage Migration? Bolivian Migrants in Argentina’,
International Migration, 43(4), 57-87.
6. A. De Lange (2007) ‘Child Labour Migration and Tracking in Rural Burkina Faso’,
International Migration, 45(2), 147–167.
7. S. Morganti (2011) ‘La mobilità dei minori in Benin. Migrazione o tratta ?’, in ed. Alice
Bellagamba Migrazioni: Dal lato dell’Africa, (Padova: Edizioni Altravista), 127-156.
8. R. Huijsmans & S. Baker (2012) ‘Child Tracking: ‘Worst Form’ of Child Labour, or Worst
Approach to Young Migrants?’, Development and Change, 43, 919-946.
9. S. Okyere(2017)‘‘Shock and Awe’: A critique of the Ghana-centric child tracking
discourse’,  Anti-Tracking Review, 9. http://www.antitra
10. H. Lewis et al. (2014) ‘Hyper-precarious lives: Migrants, work and forced labour in the
Global NorthProgress in Human Geography, 39(5), 580-600.
11. D. McNally (2006) Another World is Possible: Globalization and Anti-Capitalism, 2nd ed.,
Winnipeg: ARP Books.
12. ILO (1930) ‘Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29)’.
13. As Isaiah Berlin’s famous (1969) essay Two concepts of libertyexplains: “I am normally
said to be free to the degree to which no man or body of men interferes with my activity. If I
am prevented by others from doing what I could otherwise do, I am to that degree un-free;
and if this area is contracted by other men beyond a certain minimum, I can be described
as being coerced, or, it may be, enslaved. is theory informs the ILO’s (1930) Forced
Labour Convention, which denes the concept as shown above, as well as the ILO’s (1956)
Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade, and Institutions and
Practices Similar to Slavery. is denes slavery as “the status or condition of a person over
whom any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership are exercised”.
14. See, for instance, M. Friedman (1962) Capitalism and Freedom, Chicago University Press.
15. K. Widerquist (2013) Independence, Propertylessness, and Basic Income: A eory of
Freedom as the Power to Say No, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
16. L. H. Malkki (1996) ‘Speechless Emissaries: Refugees, Humanitarianism, and Dehistorici-
zation’, Cultural Anthropology, 11(3), 377-404.
17. M. Ticktin (2016) ‘What’s Wrong with Innocence’, Cultural Anthropology. https://culanth.
18. is is increasingly (though rarely explicitly) being recognised in discussions around the
legal concept of “the abuse of a position of vulnerability”, included in the Palermo Protocol
as one of the “means” by which tracking takes place. See the UNODC (2012) issue paper
Abuse of a position of vulnerability and other “means” within the denition of tracking
in persons’.cking/2012/UNODC_2012_
Chapter 3: Globalisation and the rise of supply chains
1. ILO(2005)‘A Global Alliance Against Forced Labour, International Labour Conference
93rd Session 2005, Report I (B), Geneva: ILO.
2. Globalisation is a contested concept within political economy. For theorisations of its core
attributes, also see work by: David McNally; David Harvey; Stephen Gill; Naomi Klein;
Nelson Lichtenstein; Shirin Rai; Bridget Anderson; Ananya Roy; and Nancy Fraser.
3. D. Harvey (2005) A Brief History of Neoliberalism, New York: Oxford University Press, 2.
4. P. Mosley, J. Harrigan & J. Toye (1991) Aid and Power: e World Bank and Policy-Based
Lending, Volume 1: Analysis and Policy Proposals, London: Routledge.
5. M. Williams (1994) International Economic Organizations and the ird World, Harvester
6. SAPRIN (2002) ‘e Policy Roots of Economic Crisis and Poverty’, Washington, DC.
7. G. Arrighi (2002) ‘e African crisis: world systemic and regional aspects’, e New Le
Review, 15. https://newle
8. D. Harvey (2005) A Brief History of Neoliberalism.
9. P. Bond (2005) ‘Globalisation/commodication or deglobalisation/decommodication in
urban South Africa’ Policy Studies, 26(3/4), 337-358.
10. A. Saad-Filho & D. Johnston (2005) Neoliberalism: a critical reader, London: Pluto Press.
11. J. Peck (2010) Constructions of Neoliberal Reason, Oxford University Press.
12. B. Selwyn (2014) e Global Development Crisis, Cambridge: Polity Press.
13. See Sourcemap, ‘A Typical Computer’.
14. Apple (2017) ‘Supplier List, February 2017.
15. R. S. Russel & B. W. Taylor (2008) Operations and Supply Chain Management, 9th ed., Wiley, 11.
16. N. Lichtenstein (2010) e Retail Revolution: How Wal-Mart Created a Brave New World of
Business, New York: Picador.
17. E. Bonacich & R. Appelbaum (2000) Behind the Label: Inequality in the Los Angeles Apparel
Industry, Berkeley: University of California Press.
18. P. Dauvergne (2008) e Shadows of Consumption, Cambridge: MIT Press.
19. L. Mosley (2008) ‘Workers’ Rights in Open Economies: Global Production and Domestic
Institutions in the Developing World’, Comparative Political Studies, 41(4-5), 674-714.
20. K. Nadvi (2014) ‘“Rising Powers” and Labour and Environmental Standards’, Oxford
Development Studies, 42(2), 137-150.
21. Nestle, ‘Responsible Sourcing’.
22. A. Crane, G.LeBaron, J.Allain & L. Behbahani, (2017) ‘Governance gaps in eradicating
forced labor: From global to domestic supply chains’,  Regulation & Governance. http://
23. J. Allain, A. Crane, G. LeBaron & L. Behbahani (2013) ‘Forced Labour’s Business Models
and Supply Chains’, Joseph Roundtree Foundation.
24. Paul La Monica (2015) ‘Apple has $203 billion in cash. Why?’, CNN Money. http://money.
25. ILO (2015) ‘World Employment Social Outlook 2015’.
26. UNCTAD (2013) ‘Global Value Chains: Investment for Trade and Development’, New York
and Geneva: United Nations.
27. P. Dauvergne & J. Lister (2012) ‘Big Brand Sustainability: Governance Prospects and
Environmental Limits’, Global Environmental Change, 22(1), 36-45.
28. Oxfam (2017) ‘An Economy for the 99%’.
29. T. Piketty (2015) e Economics of Inequality, Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
30. S. Ferguson & D. McNally (2015) ‘Capitalism’s unfree global workforce, Beyond Tracking
and Slavery.
31. G. LeBaron & N. Howard (2015) Forced Labour in the Global Economy, Beyond Tracking
and Slavery Shortcourse: Volume 2.
32. SAPRIN (2002) ‘e Policy Roots of Economic Crisis and Poverty’, 180.
33. G. LeBaron & A. Ayers (2013) ‘e Rise of a ‘New Slavery’? Understanding African unfree
labour through neoliberalism’, ird World Quarterly, 34(5), 882.
34. Verité (2017) ‘Strengthening Protections Against Tracking in Persons in Federal and
Corporate Supply Chains: Research on Risk in 43 Commodities Worldwide’. https://www.
35. J. Clapp (2012) Food, Cambridge: Polity Press.
36. K. Çalışkan (2010) Market reads: How Cotton Farmers and Traders Create a Global
Economy, Princeton University Press, 159.
37. K. Watkins (2002) ‘Cultivating Poverty: e impact of US cotton subsidies on Africa’,
38. In the words of Jennifer Clapp, what this exemplies is a world market characterised by
“an uneven set of rules which disadvantage smallholder farmers in developing countries
while maintaining rich world subsidies that benet large-scale farmers and agribusinesses
(2012: 57-8).
39. Verité (2017) ‘Strengthening Protections Against Tracking in Persons in Federal and
Corporate Supply Chains: Research on Risk in 43 Commodities Worldwide’. https://www.
40. W. Milberg & D. Winkler (2013) Outsourcing Economics: Global Value Chains in Capitalist
Development, Cambridge University Press.
41. G. Gere (2014) ‘Global value chains in a post-Washington Consensus world’, Review of
International Political Economy, 21(1) 3-97.
42. R. Kaplinsky (2005) Globalization, poverty and inequality: between a rock and a hard place,
Cambridge: Polity Press.
43. N. Lichtenstein (2010) e Retail Revolution: How Wal-Mart Created a Brave New World of
Business, 46.
44. R. Appelbaum & N. Lichtenstein (2006) Achieving Workers’ Rights in the Global Economy,
Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
45. N. Phillips (2013) ‘Unfree labour and adverse incorporation in the global economy:
Comparative perspectives on Brazil and India’, Economy and Society, 42(2), 171-196.
Chapter 4: Poverty
1. ILO (2014) ‘Prots and Poverty: the Economics of Forced Labour’, Geneva: ILO. http://
2. Verité (2017) ‘Strengthening Protections Against Tracking in Persons in Federal
and Corporate Supply Chains’.
3. N. Phillips (2015) ‘What has forced labour to do with poverty?’, Beyond Tracking and
4. B. Selwyn (2015) ‘Harsh Labour: bedrock of global capitalism’, Beyond Tracking and
5. ILO (2015) ‘World Employment and Social Outlook 2015: e Changing Nature of Jobs’,
Geneva: ILO.
6. ILO (2015) ‘Global Employment Trends for Youth’, ILO.
7. ILO (2015) ‘World Employment and Social Outlook 2015: e Changing Nature of Jobs’.
8. ILO (2017) ‘World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends 2017’, Geneva: ILO. http://
9. N. Phillips (2015) ‘What has forced labour to do with poverty?’
10. N. Phillips (2017) ‘Power and inequality in the global political economy’,  International
Aairs, 93(2), 429-444.
11. F. Norris (2014) ‘Corporate Prots Grow and Wages Slide’, e New York Times. https://ts-grow-ever-larger-as-
12. D. Harvey (2005) A Brief History of Neoliberalism, Oxford University Press.
13. J. Peck (2010) Constructions of Neoliberal Reason, Oxford University Press.
14. N. Phillips (2011) ‘Informality, global production networks and the dynamics of ‘adverse
incorporation’, Global Networks, 11(3), 380-397.
15. N. Phillips & L. Sakamoto (2012) ‘Global Production Networks, Chronic Poverty and
‘Slave Labour’ in Brazil’, Studies in Comparative International Studies, 47(3), 305.
16. N. Phillips (2013) ‘Unfree labour and adverse incorporation in the global economy:
comparative perspectives on Brazil and India’, Economy and Society, 42(2), 172.
17. Ibid., 176.
18. N. Phillips, R. Bhaskaran, D, Nathan & C. Upendranadh (2014) ‘e social foundations
of global production networks: towards a global political economy of child labour’, ird
World Quarterly, 35(3), 434.
19. Ibid., 441.
20. B. Singh Mehta & K. Sherry (2008) ‘Wages and productivity of child labour: a case of the
Zardosi industry’, Working Paper No. 42, New Delhi: Institute for Human Development.les/42-%20Balwant%20
21. S. Alkire et al. (2015) Multidimensional Poverty Measurement and Analysis, Oxford
University Press.
22. ILO (2014) ‘Prots and Poverty: e Economics of Forced Labour’.
23. Ibid., 35-36.
24. N. Phillips & F. Mieres (2014) ‘e Governance of Forced Labour in the Global Economy’,
Globalizations, 2(2), 8.
25. N. Phillips (2013) ‘Unfree labour and adverse incorporation in the global economy:
comparative perspectives on Brazil and India, 187.
26. ILO (2014) ‘Prots and Poverty: the Economics of Forced Labour’, 35.
27. G. LeBaron (2014) ‘Reconceptualizing Debt Bondage: Debt as a Class-Based Form of
Labor Discipline’, Critical Sociology, 40(5), 763-780.
28. S. Plambech (2017) ‘My body is a piece of land’, Beyond Tracking and Slavery. https://
29. J. Gordon (2016) ‘Migrant workers and labour recruitment in Mexico’, Beyond Tracking
and Slavery.
30. A. De Lauri (2016) ‘Brick kiln workers and the debt trap in Pakistani Punjab’, Beyond
Tracking and Slavery.
31. K. Strauss (2015) ‘e role of labour market intermediaries in driving forced and unfree
labour’, Beyond Tracking and Slavery.
32. Verité (2017) ‘Risk Analysis of Labor Violations Among Farmworkers in the Guatemalan
Sugar Sector: A Report on Findings from Rapid Appraisal Research’. https://www.verite.
33. Verité (2016) ‘Labor and Human Rights Risk Analysis of Ecuador’s Palm Oil Sector’.
34. Verité (2014) ‘Forced Labor in the Production of Electronic Goods in Malaysia: A
Comprehensive Study of Scope and Characteristics’.
35. B. Richardson (2015), ‘Still slaving over sugar’, Beyond Tracking and Slavery. https://
36. A recent project on the links between health, loans and debt bondage in India has explored
these questions in some detail (
modern-slavery-as-a-community-in-bihar-india), while the famous Indian basic income
experiment also found strong links between health shocks, borrowing and bondage.
37. S. Davala et al. (2015), Basic Income A Transformative Policy for India, London: Bloomsbury
Chapter 5: Identity and Discrimination
1. C. Tilly (1998) Durable Inequality, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
2. For more on how the history and legacies of the Transatlantic Slave Trade continue to
shape contemporary forms of marginalisation and exclusion, see J. Quirk & J. O’Connell
Davidson (eds) Race, Ethnicity and Belonging, Beyond Tracking and Slavery Short
Course, Volume 6. - 6
3. International Labour Organization (2005) ‘A global alliance against forced labour’, Geneva:
ILO, 30.
4. International Labour Organization (2009) ‘e cost of coercion, Geneva: ILO, 8, 15. http://
5. K. Bales & R. Soodalter (2009) e Slave Next Door: Human Tracking and Slavery in
America Today, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 6.
6. UN Women (2015) ‘Summary Report: e Beijing Declaration and Platform For Action
Turns 20’.
7. G. Hall & H. Patrinos (2014) Indigenous Peoples, Poverty and Development, Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.
8. A. Kapur Mehta et al. (2011) ‘India Chronic Poverty Report’, New Delhi: Chronic Poverty
Research Centre & Indian Institute of Public Administration. http://www.chronicpoverty.
9. International Labour Organization (2014) ‘Prots and Poverty: the Economics of Forced
Labour, Geneva: ILO.
10. N. Phillips (2011) ‘Informality, global production networks and the dynamics of ‘adverse
incorporation’, Global Networks, 11(3), 387.
11. M. Taylor (ed.) (2008) Global economy contested: power and conict across the international
division of labour, London: Routledge.
12. G. LeBaron (2015) ‘Unfree Labour Beyond Binaries’, International Feminist Journal of Politics,
17(1), 1-19.
13. C. Tilly, Durable inequality, 7-8.
14. N. Phillips (2017) ‘Power and inequality in the global political economy’, International
Aairs, 93(2), 429-444.
15. P. Bamber & C. Staritz (2016) ‘e Gender Dimensions of the Global Value Chains’, Issue
Paper, Geneva: International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development, 7. https://les/research/the_gender_dimensions_of_global_value_
16. S. Seguino (1997) ‘Export-Led Growth and the Persistance of Gender Inequality in the
Newly Industrialized Countries, in J. Rives & M. Youse (eds.), Economic Dimensions of
Gender Inequality: A Global Perspective. Wesport: Praeger.
17. S. Seguino (2000) ‘e Eects of Structural Change and Economic Liberalization on
Gender Wage Dierentials in South Korea and Taiwan’, Cambridge Journal of Economics,
24(4), 437-459.
18. A. Mezzadri (2016) e Sweatshop Regime: Labouring Bodies, Exploitation and Garments
Made in India, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
19. A. Mezzadri (2016) ‘Class, gender and the sweatshop: on the nexus between labour
commodication and exploitation’, ird World Quarterly, 37(10), 1877-1900.
20. C. Staritz & J. Guilherme Reis (2013) ‘Global Value Chains, Economic Upgrading, and
Gender’, Washington, DC: e World Bank.
21. P. Bamber & C. Staritz ‘e Gender Dimensions of the Global Value Chains’, 6.
22. Ferrant et al. (2014) ‘Unpaid Care Work: e Missing Link in the Analysis of Gender Gaps
in Labour Outcomes’, Paris: OECD Development Center.
23. C. Caridad Bueno (2015) ‘Stratication Economics and Grassroots Development: e
Case of Low–Income Black Women Workers in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic’,
e Review of Black Political Economy, 42(1/2), 38.
24. N. Phillips (2013) ‘Unfree labour and adverse incorporation in the global economy:
comparative perspectives on Brazil and IndiaEconomy and Society, 42(2), 189.
25. For similar discussions regarding dierent contexts, see: McGrath (2013); Mosse (2010)
and Barrientos (2011).
26. Verité (2016) ‘Risk Analysis of Indicators of Forced Labor and Human Tracking in
Illegal Gold Mining in Peru’.
27. Verité (2016) ‘Labor and Human Rights Risk Analysis of Ecuador’s Palm Oil Sector’.
28. A. Sheperd et al. (2014) ‘e Chronic Poverty Report 2014-2015: e road to zero extreme
poverty, e Chronic Poverty Advisory Network, 28.
29. A. Kapur Mehta et al. ‘India Chronic Poverty Report’.
30. A. Shah, J. Lerche et al. (2017) Ground down by growth: tribe, caste, class and inequality in
21st century India, London: Pluto Press.
31. N. Phillips ‘Unfree labour and adverse incorporation in the global economy: comparative
perspectives on Brazil and India, 189.
32. Verité (2017) ‘Strengthening Protections Against Tracking in Persons in Federal
and Corporate Supply Chains’.
33. International Dalit Solidarity Network (2016) ‘2016 Annual Report’.
34. J. Raj (2015) ‘e hidden injuries of caste: south Indian tea workers and economic crisis’,
Beyond Tracking and Slavery.
35. N. Phillips ‘Unfree labour and adverse incorporation in the global economy: comparative
perspectives on Brazil and India’, 186.
36. Ibid., 188.
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