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Modern Slavery, another Global Pandemic

Many believe slavery to be a thing of the past, in fact, Article 4 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted in 1948 states, “No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.” In the 21st Century, slavery has become more subtle but remains a global problem. In 2016, at any given time, it was estimated that 40.3 million people were in modern slavery. The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that there are 5.4 victims of modern slavery for every 1000 people in the world.


What is Modern Slavery?


Today victims of slavery are often exposed to coercion, threats, and deception to exploit and undermine their freedoms and human rights.



Modern Slavery includes:

  • human trafficking;

  • forced labour (all work or service which people are forced to do against their will under coercion or threats);

  • debt bondage;

  • forced marriage;

  • child labour;

  • servitude; and

  • slavery.

Women and girls are impacted the most by forced labour accounting for 99% of victims in the commercial sex industry, and 58% in other sectors. People who fall victim to modern slavery are often vulnerable and have been trapped and/or exploited which is due to poverty and exclusion from society. For some of us fortunate enough to live in a country such as Australia, modern slavery does not occupy a great deal of time in our minds. It may not be in our faces, but we often forget about the people producing the clothes we wear, manufacturing the smartphones we use, or picking the fruit we eat. Modern slavery generates $150 billion in profits a year and despite the efforts of various governments and organisations, more people fall, victim, as the global population grows.


Modern slavery is most prevalent in Africa, followed by Asia, but remains a major problem in our backyard.


Modern Slavery in Australia


In Australia, the Global Slavery Index estimated on any given day in 2016, 15,000 Australians were living in modern slavery.


The Australian Government has aimed to combat this global problem by introducing the Modern Slavery Act 2018 (Cth) on 1 January 2019. This legislation requires large businesses and other entities to comply with reporting requirements and prepare annual Modern Slavery Statements. The Modern Slavery Statements set out the entities' actions to assess, research and address modern slavery risks within their global operations. The goal is to turn our attention to the supply chains of larger businesses. The objective being to bring awareness and identify areas where modern slavery is slipping through the cracks of global business operations. The NSW Government is currently reviewing the Modern Slavery Act 2018 (NSW) which will introduce the role of a state Anti-Slavery Commissioner while also placing requirements on businesses to annually report on modern slavery.


How many face masks do you have lying around your house? Unfortunately, some of these masks could potentially be a product of modern slavery.