Who is Forced into Labour?

Greetings from The Slave Detective,

No apologies to my American friends….that is how LABOUR is spelt.

My blog today is looking at forced labour in the world. This is sparked by a recent article in the Guardian Newspaper promoting an upcoming podcast on the subject.


The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that in 2011, almost 21 million people were trapped in jobs that they were coerced or deceived into, jobs that they were unable to leave. This is often referred to as modern-day slavery.

As always I first wanted to look at exactly what ILO is and why they are in a position to estimate such numbers. People do get so wrapped up in the numbers game.

The ILO was created in 1919, as part of the Treaty of Versailles that ended
World War I, to reflect the belief that universal and lasting peace can be
accomplished only if it is based on social justice.

It is the only tripartite U.N. agency with government, employer, and worker
representatives. This tripartite structure makes the ILO a unique forum in which
the governments and the social partners of the economy of its 185 Member States can freely and openly debate and elaborate labour standards and policies.

The ILO Headquarters is in Geneva. In short they are a think tank gathering information from sources across the globe. They set out a definition of what Force Labour is and how they come to their figures. The 2012 estimate of forced labour is significantly higher than the ILO’s earlier 2005 estimate, which was 12.3 million victims.

“The new estimate of 20.9 million is based on an improved methodological model, which takes into account the ILO’s own experience since 2005, the results from the first national surveys of forced labour, external feedback on the 2005 estimation procedure, as well as valuable advice on the new methodology given by a group of independent experts.”

Read their Q & A’s page to see more.

I have to confess these are still ‘Guess-timates’ as far as I can ascertain but the figures are shocking even if they only half correct.

Lets not get tangled up in estimates of people’s misery.

Lets us look more towards what we can do to combat this and make people’s lives better. This is easy for me to say in the comfort of my warm office.

I suspect though that this month’s podcast in The Guardian will  not just be looking at forced labour and the role of international conventions in offering protection; the realities of working on the frontline against slavery; some of the trends in the anti-slavery movement; but will be dissecting the Centre of Social Justice report into the failures of the UK government to address human trafficking.

You may recall I blogged about this and had a comment from its author Andrew Wallis. The Report angered many in the places we are looking to engage to support Human Trafficking measures.

But industry is ‘bulking up’ in its approach to this issue. During the Olympics, organisations who wanted to sponsor them had to sign up to ‘Fairtrade’ measures.

The global business coalition against human trafficking (gBCAT) is a gathering of major companies that have signed up to something called The Athens Action Plan.

The Seven Ethical Principles of the Athens Action Plan :-
•Explicitly demonstrate the position of zero tolerance towards trafficking in human beings, especially women and children for sexual exploitation.
•Contribute to prevention of trafficking in human beings including awareness-raising campaigns and education.
•Develop a corporate strategy for anti-trafficking policy which will permeate all our activities.
•Ensure that our personnel fully comply with our anti-trafficking policy.
•Encourage business partners, including suppliers, to apply ethical principles against human trafficking.
•In an effort to increase enforcement it is necessary to call on governments to initiate a process of revision of laws and regulations that are directly or indirectly related to enhancing anti-trafficking policies.
•Report and share information on best practices.

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