11 Indicators of Forced Labor
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It’s not hiding in plain sight. It’s not hiding at all. It’s right in front of us. We are complicit in a global conspiracy of intentional ignorance because all of us benefit from today’s slavery. The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates “at least 12.3 million people are victims of forced labor worldwide. Of these, 9.8 million are exploited by private agents, including more than 2.4 million in forced labor as a result of human trafficking.” Growing international awareness of corporate responsibility and human rights has led intergovernmental organizations to further enhance existing legislation and protocols to address forced labor, one of many human rights abuses that occur in today’s global supply chains.
The UN has created a legally-binding treaty requiring multinationals to respect human rights by adhering to enforceable international regulation. More recently, the ILO ratified the ILO Convention 29 on Forced Labour to include additional provisions on human trafficking related to prevention, protection, and provision of victim remediation including compensation for material and physical harm. In today’s growing marketplace, the ability to thoroughly assess sourcing risks in new and existing supply chains is critical since human rights violations, like forced labor, can threaten a company’s reputation and compromise the delivery of products and services. While political instability and corruption in emerging economies pose great risks to multinationals, forced labor lurks as an obscured risk in complex supply chains.
Even well-intentioned companies with corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives and supply chain monitoring protocols in place may be unintentionally partnering with suppliers and recruitment agencies that use forced labor. Tackling the problem of forced labor requires concerted efforts from multiple actors. Although governments authorize and enforce new human rights legislation and policies, businesses can proactively address human rights abuses in their supply chains through monitoring for forced labor.
To help, the ILO created the 11 Indicators of Forced Labor. This useful resource highlights the predominant signs and signals that forced labor may be occurring in a company’s supply chain. The eleven indicators are:
- Abuse of vulnerability
- Restriction of movement
- Physical and sexual violence
- Intimidation and threats
- Retention of identity documents
- Withholding of wages
- Debt bondage
- Abusive working and living conditions
- Excessive overtime.
While the existence of one indicator may suggest unfair labor practices, often times various indicators occur, which point to forced labor.