Labour exploitation: Are you playing a role?
By Kathleen Walsh
Cases of forced labour contributes to 38% of all trafficking cases . Forced labour is used to decrease production costs and thereby increase profit margins for businesses. It can be defined as the following: “When a person is forced to work, without their consent, by threats or coercion. This includes bonded labor, forced domestic work, forced labour of migrants, forced begging, and work imposed in the context of slavery or vestiges of slavery.” 
Our role in forced labour
The items we buy for daily use all have potential links to forced labour and human trafficking. Since all we ever see is the end product, and we can’t easily hear the voices of these modern day slaves, we should arm ourselves with research to discover whether or not the items in our cupboards and on our shopping lists have really been produced through the unpaid labour of another person. Visit Slavery Footprint — and follow the quick questionnaire about your lifestyle and purchasing habits to find out how many slaves “work for you” (The author has 41). Whilst we might pay a high price for a luxury item that has been produced using forced labour, the average cost of a slave is $90, and we have even seen a case of a girl being sold for just R20 (<$2).
For example, this anonymous survivor’s story: “He said, “you know what, these people have to take an interview”, of which it was to wash cars. In my entire life, I’ve never washed a car. And I never thought that I would ever wash a car. But I had no choice, I had to take that job. So we had to wash the cars. We were supposed to be paid I think R500 per fortnight but of course they didn’t pay us sometimes because we are desperate, so they used us.” — Labour Trafficking Survivor
Sectors contributing to forced labour
Forced labour usually comprises of difficult, dirty or dangerous jobs. The top sector responsible for labour exploitation is the construction industry, including manufacturing, mining and utilities — the construction industry contributes 51% of all forced labour cases2. $3,300 (over R45,000) is made per victim in construction related labour in Africa. The other major sectors include agricultural industries like forestry and fishing ($1000 (over R13,500) made per victim in Africa) and domestic work ($600 or R8000 made per victim in Africa). In South Africa, domestic workers are protected by law and minimum wage has been set at the following :
If you are aware of domestic servitude, in which a domestic worker is not being paid adequately, please contact us.
63% of the victims detected between 2012 and 2014 for forced labour were men. To read more about men and forced labour, view Men and Trafficking: Not Just Perpetrators.
27% of exploitation cases are children. 151.6 million are estimated to be in child labour and 114 million child labourers are below the age of 144.
“Coffee fruits are very small, so to pick the coffee, they normally want small children because they have small fingers — they can pick without damaging, unlike adults or machetes” — Anonymous Activist
Coffee is one example of forced labour that is connected to children. Mica, a mined sparkly mineral used in eyeshadows and car paint, has been connected to 20 000 children and the production of cocoa beans is notoriously linked to children.
More you can do to stop forced labour:
- Research products that you buy and make sure that they were produced without forced labour. Looking for the fairtrade logo is one way to do this.
- You can donate money to organizations like International Justice Mission who are devoted to helping countries to create policies to prohibit human trafficking and forced labor.
- Volunteer to do victim outreach at a local anti-trafficking organization.
- Attend and invite others to attend Hope for Women events and workshops- connect to our Facebook Page to see latest events.
- Learn more about human trafficking on internet sources e.g. https://www.mbacentral.org/business-modern-day-slavery/
What can you do?
Be a Voice
Awareness is a huge need in South Africa — the average South African doesn’t know that Human Trafficking is a problem in our country. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details on our Anti-Human Trafficking Workshops.
- Book a Speaker
- Cycle for Hope
- Run for Hope
- Raise awareness with your friends & family
- Blog posts
- Share on Facebook / Twitter / Social Media
- Share with your company
- Local newspaper / magazine
- UNODC, Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2016
- International Labour Organization