Standing up against Modern Slavery
Modern slavery is a huge problem around the world. We look at how it affects all of us and what is being done to combat this crime.
In the USA, slavery was officially abolished in 1865. However, we see regular news reports and documentaries about people being treated like slaves in the world today. You may have even heard the term "modern slavery".
What is modern slavery?
According to antislavery.org modern slavery is the severe exploitation of other people for personal or commercial gain.
This can include human trafficking, slavery, forced labour, being forced to work to pay off debt, forced marriage and child labour.
Note that modern slavery is a term used to describe serious exploitation. This doesn’t include practices such as poor working conditions or underpaying workers. For information about workplace rights and obligations in Australia, visit the Fair Work Ombudsman website.
Who is most affected by modern slavery?
In 2017, a group of organisations including Walk Free developed the Global Slavery Index. It found that people most affected were:
- workers in the garment manufacturing, mining and agriculture industries
- women and girls, who make up 71% of victims
- refugees who need to work to survive
- workers who are unskilled or poorly educated
How big is the problem?
We know that modern slavery is a global problem that affects all industries, however it’s very difficult to measure for obvious reasons. No-one will openly admit to it.
In an attempt to measure the size of the problem, the Global Slavery Index found that:
- modern slavery affects all countries, including highly developed countries
- there were approx. 40.3 million victims (men, women and children) on any given day in 2016
- G20 countries imported around $354 billion of at-risk products
Where is it most widespread?
The index found that modern slavery occurs most in Africa, followed by Asia and the Pacific region. In Australia, we import a lot of goods from China and other countries in Asia, so we need to be conscious of labour rights in these supply chains and the treatment of workers at companies that we buy goods from.
And while the problem is much smaller in Australia, it does exist. According to the index, there are an estimated 15,000 people subjected to modern slavery in Australia.
How does this affect all of us?
Modern slavery is a global problem that affects businesses, workers, consumers and investors.
In the business world, modern slavery gives some companies an unfair advantage. The global marketplace is competitive, and companies that exploit their workers to produce cheaper goods may sell more than their competitors. As a result, some businesses may be forced to move their production offshore, close their business or merge.
And if our local businesses do move their operations offshore, then they are at greater risk of being involved in modern slavery due to the employment standards in those countries.
For Australian workers, it can limit the types of jobs they can apply for. For example, if a local business moves offshore, most of the jobs will likely move there also.
As a consumer, you might benefit from buying cheaper goods (e.g. clothes), but your choice of goods may be more limited than before, as domestic producers may have closed down.
For people who invest in companies with a high risk of modern slavery, it may also affect their returns. For example, when a company is found guilty of modern slavery practices, the subsequent fines and damage to their reputation can reduce their share price.
What can we do to reduce modern slavery?
As this is a global problem, governments, businesses, global bodies (such as the UN), unions and individuals all have an important role to play.
In Australia, the Modern Slavery Act 2018 was created and requires large businesses, with annual revenues over $100m, to identify, address and report their modern slavery risks and maintain responsible and transparent supply chains. They must also prepare an annual statement.
As consumers, we need to learn more about the businesses that we purchase goods from and invest in. One way is to visit a company’s website and read their Modern Slavery Statement or visit the Modern Slavery Register.
What are we doing to address it?
LUCRF Super has a long-standing belief that all people deserve fair treatment in the workplace. We stand against human rights abuses including modern slavery, forced labour and any form of labour exploitation.
A growing awareness and understanding of modern slavery risks has improved our practices and behaviours.
To find out more about the actions we’ve taken to address modern slavery risk from 1 July 2020 to 30 June 2021, read our Modern Slavery Statement.