The Australian cleaning industry has come under scrutiny for being at risk of modern slavery in a new book which draws links between consumers, business and government, and an estimated 40 million people who are modern-day slaves.
Addressing Modern Slavery explains the global conditions that have allowed slavery to thrive to the point “where there are more slaves today than ever before in human history”.
Authors Associate Professor Justine Nolan from UNSW Sydney and Dr Martijn Boersma from UTS describe well-known examples from overseas, such as women in apparel sweatshops and children in brick kilns – but also examples that are closer to home.
The authors include a submission from a former cleaner to the Parliamentary Inquiry into Establishing a Modern Slavery Act in Australia who noted exploitation in the cleaning industry is very common.
When the Bill that became the Modern Slavery Act 2018 (Cth) was introduced into the federal parliament, it was accompanied by a grim message: two centuries after the abolition of the slave trade in the United Kingdom, it is estimated that there are twenty-five million victims of modern slavery worldwide. It also came with a bracing if Panglossian promise: that the Modern Slavery Act would ‘transform’ the way large companies in Australia do business, and drive a ‘race to the top’. Published a year after the introduction of this legislation, Addressing Modern Slavery is a timely reflection on the pervasiveness of modern slavery in global supply chains – and on the role of the state, business, and other actors in combating this serious and complex problem.
Companies often talk about being on a human rights ‘journey’; a long and winding course with many stops along the way. On the other hand, they are never on a ‘journey’ to profit – this tends to happen as quickly as possible. Given that Big Business has long been accused of paying lip service to its social responsibilities, the statement signed last month by virtually all the members of the US Business Roundtable, has caused quite a stir.
Their statement on the purpose of a corporation talks about dealing fairly and ethically with suppliers, supporting the communities in which they work and respecting people and the environment by embracing sustainable practices. It also highlights that the signatory companies, including Amazon, Ford and JP Morgan, ‘are committed to transparency’.
However, global supply chains are anything but transparent; today there are more than 21 million people around the world trapped in forced labour, most of whom produce goods for consumers around the globe.
There are currently an estimated 40.3 million people enslaved around the world. If we are to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goal to end modern slavery by 2030, then around 10 000 people need to escape from slavery each day.
Although people are becoming increasingly aware that modern slavery exists, it remains a phenomenon that is too often dismissed, underestimated or misunderstood. There is often confusion about what ‘modern slavery’ actually means as there is no one definition.
An estimated 40 million people are modern-day slaves, more than ever before in history.
Long after slavery was officially abolished, the practice not only continues but thrives. Whether they are women in electronics or apparel sweatshops, children in brick kilns or on cocoa farms, or men trapped in bonded labour working on construction sites, millions of people globally are forced to perform labour through coercion, intimidation or deceit.
In a world of growing inequality and trade-offs between the haves and the have-nots, consumers, business and government are all part of the problem and the solution. While we have all become accustomed to fast fashion and cheap consumer goods, the affordability of these commodities often comes at the price of human exploitation. Addressing Modern Slavery examines modern slavery and outlines ways it can be stopped.
The Oxford Handbook of the Corporation assesses the contemporary relevance, purpose, and performance of the corporation. The corporation is one of the most significant, if contested, innovations in human history, and the direction and effectiveness of corporate law, corporate governance, and corporate performance are being challenged as never before. Continuously evolving, the corporation as the primary instrument for wealth generation in contemporary economies demands frequent assessment and reinterpretation.