None of us want to be an unwitting part of enslaving people. Yet many of the estimated 50 million children, women and men in modern slavery worldwide are producing the products that are in our homes and workplaces. World Vision has conducted research that contains an urgent message for New Zealanders. As households, we inadvertently spend an average of $34 per week – only slightly less than on our electricity spend – on industries whose products are implicated in modern slavery. Right now, companies don't need to do basic checks.
Currently, in New Zealand, there are no laws stopping products linked to child labour or forced labour from being imported. Companies don’t have to declare where their goods are coming from or ensure their products haven’t been made by people who are enslaved.
This report highlights New Zealand’s most risky goods and how other countries are looking into supply chains and addressing imports linked to child labour and forced labour. Download the full research report here.
The New Zealand Government should make laws requiring companies and the public sector to examine and disclose their products' origins and then take steps to address any child labour and forced labour identified in their supply chains. When this information is out in the open, Kiwis can make ethical purchasing decisions and be confident that they aren’t supporting modern slavery.
Of the $3.1 billion, $1.5 billion of goods is connected to forced labour, and $713 million of goods to child labour. The remainder, $920 million, is associated with both forced labour and child labour. We spent the most on risky goods from China (64%, $2 billion), then Vietnam (9%, $279 million), Malaysia (7%, $233 million) and Bangladesh (5%, $150 million).
Valued at $1.3 billion, garments accounted for 40% of risky products imported to New Zealand in 2019.
Only 10 of every 86 bananas Kiwis ate in 2019 were from countries not associated with child labour.
In 2019, more than 20 million pairs of risky shoes were imported – that's four pairs for every Kiwi.
Almost one in five African children are involved in child labour, the highest of any region around the world. This equates to an estimated 72 million children. Asia and the Pacific rank second with 7.4% of children in the region working, that's 62 million children.
More females than males are enslaved. Some 28.7 million women and girls account for 71% of the total number. They make up 84% of victims of forced marriages and 40% of the victims who state authorities force into work. In other sectors, women and girls make up 58% of people enslaved.
Children make up 18% of people forced into work. Most child victims do farm work, with 70% of children working in subsistence or commercial farming and livestock herding. Almost 50% of all child labourers are forced to do jobs that put their lives and health at risk.
There is some good news. In the past 15 years, the number of child labourers has fallen, with 100 million fewer children now working. In 2000, there were about 246 million children involved in child labour. In 2016, this fell to 152 million, a drop of 38%.
COVID-19-related job losses have increased the risk of people being exploited by forced labour and modern slavery. Supply chain workers are extra-vulnerable to losing their jobs and falling into poverty.
Lockdowns have pushed many casual and temporary labourers out of work. This includes vulnerable migrant workers who don’t usually have savings or access to welfare in their host countries. Without work, many migrant workers can’t pay for food, housing or healthcare. With limited legal rights or finances to fall back on, migrant workers could face a greater risk of human trafficking or being forced into labour when lockdowns are lifted.
School closures have forced more children into work, begging and child marriage. When parents are out of work, many children have to work to help their family earn an income.
Internationally, there is growing movement towards legislating for supply chain transparency. More people are demanding that businesses and governments act ethically and ensure their supply chains are free from modern slavery. New Zealand has no accountability legislation to address transparency in the supply chain. This means that New Zealand companies could unknowingly be importing products or services that exploit and enslave people.
The New Zealand Government has openly committed to eradicating forced labour and modern slavery. However, while commitments have been made, to date, no action has progressed.
On 16 March 2021, 85 leading New Zealand companies signed an open letter requesting that the New Zealand Government start an inquiry into a Modern Slavery Act for New Zealand business and public sector supply chains.
Modern Slavery legislation requires public and private entities to report on the risks of modern slavery in their businesses and supply chains and what actions they are taking to address them. A Modern Slavery Act for New Zealand should consider all global developments taking place, including human rights due diligence in Europe, the UK and Australian Modern Slavery acts, and the banning of imports linked to forced labour.
Join us in calling on the government to urgently progress modern slavery legislation.
Risky Goods New Zealand Imports research report published by World Vision New Zealand 29 April 2021. Download the full research report for further details.