“Each day, people are tricked, coerced, or forced into exploitative situations that they cannot refuse or leave. Each day, we buy the products or use the services they have been forced to make or offer without realizing the hidden human cost,” states the nonprofit organization Walk Free in their recently published report, the “Global Slavery Index.” “An estimated 50 million people were living in modern slavery on any given day in 2021, an increase of 10 million people since 2016.”
The index found that, in addition to industries such as textile and palm oil, the technology sector, with its branches of consumer electronics and solar panels, is a significant contributor, with an estimated import worth of $468 billion made through forced labor, human trafficking, and child labor.
The G20 nations source their resources in China and Malaysia, where many laborers from Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar, and Indonesia work in the tech industry suffering from high rates of forced labor. In China, electronic manufacturing plants allegedly use laborers forced by the state, specifically from the Uyghur ethnic group. The abuses happen in sourcing raw materials, manufacturing, packaging, and transportation due to opaque global supply chains.
To combat forced labor and human trafficking within the tech industry, NGOs state that working together across different fields is crucial to tackling these issues effectively. A wide range of knowledge and abilities is required, including expertise in law enforcement, support services, and technology. It’s essential to listen to business, community, and survivors’ input and work cooperatively with government bodies.
They also say that efforts in developing tools combating modern slavery are often from the Global North, not considering the local realities of the places where the technologies and anti-trafficking actions are implemented. It’s, therefore, critical to include survivors in the discussion and empower them with participatory technology tools that provide agency to impacted individuals that have the potential to break existing power dynamics.