Electronics is the latest industry exposed as enjoying large profits by exploiting cheap labour in developing countries. One organisation has been doing a deep investigation into the major electronics brands, and has found ominous results. Baptist World Aid (BWA) conducts an annual survey on fashion and electronics manufacturers, looking at conditions for workers all the way through the supply chain. They grade all brands A-F based on their responses to a long list of factors. Unfortunately in the report released in February 2016 not one brand received an A grade, and the average was a C-.
Trafficking agents travel to remote villages, they target families suffering the most and begin to influence those families into selling children or family members. Once agents have bought the children they are sold to the cities and swallowed up into a highly sophisticated and well-orchestrated trafficking industry. Once the victim is in their hands, they are sold into sex slavery or into manual labour. They are held until their purchase price is repaid with interest, however they are paid such low wages that buying their freedom is almost impossible.
In 2016 the WalkFree foundation released their latest research report into slavery and they came to a number of 45.8 million people. Which is a staggering number, but still likely understated because it is an illegal and underground practice that we are discussing and so not something that can be accurately measured through a Gallup survey. In his 2013 paper, researcher Andrew Crane discusses how global businesses have garnered enormous power over the last 30 years, and have enjoyed a great number of savings opportunities as a result. What this means is that the business models that are currently accepted as normal allow modern slavery to continue to flourish. Even though it is largely universally illegal. We do this because we have a driving, underpinning economic focus, and this in turn drives the need to under-price major resources in production – a large component of which is labour.
Governments and international organisations have a big role to play in helping to regulate and manage slavery and trafficking in international business. Things like the introduction of the ‘modern slavery act’ in the UK in 2015 are an advancement but we are still in the early stages.