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Men in Suits


2nd December is observed as the international day for the abolition of slavery. In a world where expressions such as ‘freedom’ and ‘liberty’ have achieved revolutionary breakthroughs globally, it is difficult to believe that some people are still victimized by slavery. But the harsh reality compels us to believe the same.

According to International Labour Organisation (ILO), 27.6 million people are in situations of modern slavery on any given day. It is more prevalent in Central Asia, Africa, Arab States, Europe and America. Yes, you read it right! It’s not just a problem of third world countries but developed nations are grappling with this issue as well. It is quite a disturbing statistic which obliges us to dive deep into this subject.

Firstly, it is important to understand the concept of modern slavery. Just think of the comfortable life you are living. You are sitting in AC workspaces, getting your weekly offs, chilling around the office, going in between to grab some food or coffee, having the liberty to take sick leaves or taking leaves to enjoy a vacation. These are some common rights to which every employee and worker is entitled.

However, not everyone is fortunate to have these rights and some experience the complete antithesis of these rights. Imagine a scenario where a worker is called to another country on the pretext of a new job and the employer quoting security reasons grabs his passport and never gives him back. Imagine a place where workers are made to work day and night without reasonable or no wages, are subject to immense physical torture for their refusal to work, or are forced to intensively work when they should be lying in bed to recover from a disease. As scary as it may sound, there are so many people out there who are living such lives of suffering.

The underlying reasons that give birth to modern slavery are quite evidentially poverty, unemployment, migration, lack of education, social vulnerability and violence based on gender. The COVID-19 pandemic has made the situation worse making the vulnerable group of people submit themselves to modern slavery. In common parlance, it means forced labour or human trafficking.

The ILO Forced Labour Convention, 1930 defines forced labour as “all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily.” It refers to a situation of exploitation in which a person cannot refuse to work or cannot leave the workplace because of threats, violence, deception, abuse of power or other forms of coercion. The employer, or more correctly pronounced as exploiter abuses his position of power to dehumanise a person working for him and subjects him to torture and harassment through various means. The abusive employer resorts to practices such as wrongful confinement of labour, denial of basic essential needs, withholding of wages, child labour, physical & sexual violence etc. Women and children are easy victims of modern slavery as they are considered to be the most vulnerable. Women are often tricked into prostitution against their will leaving them nowhere to go and around 6.8 million women and young girls are in this situation. Men too are not spared the horror of slavery in industries such as construction, manufacturing and textiles.

Sadly, slavery is prevalent even in modern times because it has become a big business today that generates ample revenue of around US $ 150 billion.

And you may be ridiculed to read that we too are contributors to modern slavery in some or the other way. Wonder, how? By living in those houses built by the forced labour force, by using those products manufactured by labour who weren’t given their wages and still made to work, by wearing those clothes which though manufactured in developed nations were made by labourers of third world countries whose passports were confiscated. As long as we don’t stop contributing to the revenue generated by forced labour, the misery of labour won’t stop.

This draws our attention to the ‘Social’ aspect of ESG where employee well-being forms the essence of S. Due to the increasing awareness; regulatory frameworks in place and investor’s consciousness, companies worldwide are now required to disclose practices pertaining to their treatment towards human capital. It covers the disclosure of measures taken by the company towards the well-being and development of employees and workers, and adherence to labour rights and human rights in their organisation. This transparency shall help the public in making better judgements and discreet decision-making. We as responsible people must act upon it.

There has always been a pressing need to address this issue on a global scale. One of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), namely goal no. 8 [Decent Work and Economic Growth] is dedicated to ending this tragedy. The countries have joined hands and targeted to end modern slavery among children by 2025 and universally by 2030. Other SDGs such as No poverty & Gender Equality shall also aid in ending modern slavery. The nations in order to achieve this ambitious target need to adopt an aggressive approach and we as individuals must contribute our best towards this cause to help nations achieve this goal. A lot of countries have already enacted legislation to abolish modern slavery. Because every human being has the right to live with dignity and free will and deserves freedom from the clutches of slavery.

You can become an ESG expert and raise awareness on this subject through our Directors’ Institutes’ CPD Accredited ESG Expert Certification, which is one of the leading organisations.

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