Are your favorite products created by slave labor? New report indicates it's possible

Yahoo News

View photo

.

World map of slavery, via Quartz.

You may be reading this on a smartphone, while flying on a plane, or while nibbling on a bit of chocolate. And therefore, a new study asserts, it’s entirely possible that you’re enjoying the products of slave labor.

As Quartz notes, a new report from the Walk Free Foundation, The Global Slavery Index, has estimated that there are 30 million slaves in the world today, with more than half of them in production hubs such as India, China and Russia.

Slavery, as defined by the Walk Free Foundation, comprises any situation in which an individual is forced into servitude against their will. In come cases, products produced using slave labor are shipped around the world – making it a global rather than a local concern.

Some examples, per Quartz:

• China has an estimated three million slaves working to create electronics and designer handbags. The report also alleges that forced labor was used to create headphones for several airlines.

• Starting in May 2014, companies will have to document the sources of their tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold, per the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Major companies such as Apple (AAPL), Boeing (BA) and Intel (INTC) are under scrutiny to ensure that they are not using materials from war-torn locales, which often press civilians into work.

• The Asian seafood industry uses migrant workers to harvest seafood for worldwide markets.

• Côte d’Ivoire’s cocoa trade may use as many as 600,000 to 800,000 child laborers to harvest its cocoa beans, which constitutes 40 percent of the world’s cocoa supply.

The Walk Free Foundation is part of an effort designed to eliminate slavery from private industry supply chains, and is funded by Andrew Forrest of the mining company Fortescue Metals Group. The Global Slavery Index ranks 162 countries based on their record of human slavery, child marriage and human trafficking. The worst countries, according to the index, are Mauritania, Haiti, Pakistan and India. For more on the report, visit the foundation’s site.

In connection with the global anti-slavery movement, a social drive toward fair trade is taking root. To learn more about commodities produced under fair conditions, where workers are paid fair wages for their production, visit sites such as Fair Trade USA and Good World Solutions, which uses technology to track factory conditions around the world.

Contact Jay Busbee at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or on Twitter at @jaybusbee.

View Comments (1974)