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Monthly Archives: June 2013

The Transparency in UK Company Supply Chains Bill: three lessons

Our guest post for this week has been written by Nicola Phillips; Professor of Political Economy at the University of Sheffield, UK. Professor Phillips currently holds a Major Research Fellowship from The Leverhulme Trust, which was awarded in 2010 for three years, for work on forced labour and human trafficking in the global and UK economies. She writes and speaks extensively on these issues, and is working on a book on the global political economy of forced labour and human trafficking which (she hopes!) will be completed by the end of this year.  

The issues of human trafficking and slavery in global supply chains have been somewhat in vogue of late, particularly in the United States. The state of California brought into force its innovative Transparency in Supply Chains (TISC) Act in 2012, obliging large firms doing business in or with California to report on the steps that they are taking to address trafficking in their supply chains. The focus on supply chains was central to US President Barack Obama’s major statement on trafficking in September 2012, and labour rights made a strong showing in the United Nations’ Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, endorsed in 2011. (more…)

Economized: working towards the lowest common denominator

TTRP has been focusing on the impact of the financial crisis on employment and exploitation in the UK.  We have looked at its effect on young people obliged to take unpaid internships in the face of a rising inability to access the labour market and at the Government’s attempts to get those in receipt of job seekers allowance to take on unpaid work as a method of retaining this unemployment benefit.  The pressure on poorly paid workers in the UK is steadily increasing through a combination of a “race to the bottom” by businesses to reduce costs and the need by Government to reduce public spending.

For example, one approach has been to reduce public sector employment as the Institute for Fiscal Studies highlights, “The overall level of public sector employment fell by about 300,000, or 5%, between 2010 and 2012…” The National Health Service (NHS) has been particularly badly hit with 50,000 jobs to be cut between 2011-2015; research showed that “nearly every [NHS] trust in the country admitted that they planned to shed staff over the next four years, with some losing up to one in five employees”.  The impact of these cuts was examined in a recent report by Oxfam, which found that half a million people in the UK are now reliant on food banks.  The authors commented

Some of the increase in the number of people using food banks is caused by unemployment, increasing levels of underemployment, low and falling income, and rising food and fuel prices. The National Minimum Wage and benefits levels need to rise in line with inflation, in order to ensure that families retain the ability to live with dignity and can afford to feed and clothe themselves and stay warm. (more…)

Researching the unseen: Challenges in human trafficking research.

TTRP is pleased to have Rebecca Surtees as a guest blogger this week. Rebecca is Senior Researcher at NEXUS Institute, an international human rights research and policy center in Washington, DC. NEXUS Institute is dedicated to combating human trafficking as well as other human rights abuses. Recent research studies include: Trafficked at sea. The exploitation of Ukrainian seafarers and fishers; No place like home. Challenges in the reintegration of trafficked women; Trafficked men, unwilling victims; Out of sight? Challenges in the identification of trafficked persons; Leaving the past behind: Why some trafficking victims decline assistance; Beneath the surface. Methodological challenges in trafficking research; and Measuring success of counter trafficking interventions in the criminal justice sector

Researching the unseen

Much human trafficking research is based on data from trafficked persons who have been formally identified and assisted by anti-trafficking organisations and professionals. This type of research reveals a great deal about their pre-trafficking situations and vulnerabilities, their trafficking experiences and their assistance experiences and needs, all of which is essential in informing policies and interventions to prevent and combat trafficking.

However, there are certain biases in terms of the information that we get from trafficking victims who have been identified and assisted, which means that our picture of trafficking is only partial. That is, not all trafficked persons are offered (or accept) assistance and there are also differences in terms of which trafficked persons researchers will have access to and why. Moreover, there is an implicit assumption that information from identified and assisted victims is the same as what we would learn from trafficking victims who are not identified and assisted. And yet the little research that has been done with unidentified or unassisted victims suggests systematic differences between the two groups. (more…)