Did we ever really abolish the slave trade?

This week the international society remembers the slave trade and its abolition. However, with an estimated 20-30 million victims subject to modern-slavery, this crime is still all too present in our societies.

Today is the ‘International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and Its Abolition’. In this piece Thomas Hauschildt reminds us that we should remember slavery wherever it is

This week the international society remembers the slave trade and its abolition. However, with an estimated 20-30 million victims subject to modern-slavery, this crime is still all too present in our societies.

Whether it is men forced into labour to build the stadiums for the 2022 football world cup in Qatar, child labourers on cocoa farms in West Africa, child soldiers in Central Africa, women enslaved in US households, men and women subject to bondaged labour in India, victims enforced to work on fishing boats in Thailand, or wome forced into marriage and a life of servitude in Europe and elsewhere, modern slavery is a global problem still prevelant in many parts of our society.

The International Labour Organizination reported that forced labour generates a profit of US $150 billion in the private sector alone. Although the underlying factors might vary from region to region, slaves worldwide are often subject to the same egregious treatment, including forced labour, physical and mental abuse, the threat of violence and restrictions on the freedom of movement.

Many are subject to human trafficking and are treated as “commodities” that can be bought or sold.

Although, international conventions and declarations, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) adopted in 1948, outlaw slavery an estimated 20-30 million people worldwide are subject to slavery.

Countries with the highest prevelance of slavery are Mauritania, Haiti, Pakistan, India and Nepal. Mauritania was the last nation to ablish slavery in 1981 and until 2007 it was not even a crime to hold slaves. The Walk-Free Foundation estimates that four percent of the country’s population is still enslaved whilst SOS Slavery estimates the number to be as high as twenty percent.

Nearly half of the people forced into slavery live in India. Debt bondage, often passed onto the forthcoming generations, is common and in some cases children become chattels the moment they are born. Although the country’s large population needs to be taken into conisderation  when looking at total numbers, it is clear that increased efforts in India could result in halving the number of slaves world wide.

Nonetheless, even better developed countries need to do more to tackle slavery. Political stability, minority rights, the rule of law and a high ranking on the development index are all essential factors to fight slavery. However, they are no guarantes for the absence of slavery and it is believed that in the developed economies alone 1.5 million people are subject to slavery.

The UK, together with Ireland and Iceland, is estimated to have the lowest prevalence of slavery. Nonetheless, current estimates about the number of slaves in the UK range from 5,000 to 20,000. In a recent case, eight man were rescued after being forced to work on a farm.

In order to fight slavery, the UK Government hopes to adopt the Modern-Slavery Bill before the next general election. The Bill – the first of its kind in Europe – is accompanied by a TV campaign titled ‘Slavery is closer than you think’, emphasising the plight of victims who have been forced into domestic servitude, prostitution and agricultural labour. The aim is not only to raise awareness of slavery happening in the midst of our society, but also to encourage the public to report cases of suspected slavery.

In order to tackle slavery we need to address root causes and symptoms alike.  Law enforcement needs to be accompanied by socio-economic measures and national legislation to hold offenders accountable. Raising awarness, as the UK Government is doing in its campaign, is a step in the right direction.

However, we not only have to be aware of slavery in our own society, but also of products likely to be produced by modern slaves. Cocoa products are a case in point. Dutch Journalist Teun van de Keuken has raised public awareness of child labour and slavery on cocoa farms by handing himself into police for accomplicancy in slavery as a chocolate consumer. He was not tried, but set up his own slave-free chocolate company.

Customers are also stakeholders of the supply chain and can therefore be implicit in modern-slavery. In fact, customers are the most important stakeholders as their choices determine which products are being bought. Moreover, companies need to ensure that every step of the supply chain is free from slave labour. Products could then be labelled accordingly to allow customers to make well informed choices.

Finally, we need more cultural awarness, especially in countries such as Mauritania. Legislation can play its part, but only when people are educated about the rights of every individual, is change for the better more likely to happen. Moreover, poverty is a strong incubator for slavery. If we fight poverty, we reduce the likelihood of men, women and children becoming the victims of slave traders.

It is therefore up to all of us to contribute whatever we can to combat modern slavery. Only then, slavery can be truly a thing of the past.

Thomas Hauschildt is a Senior Fellow at the Human Security Centre and leads the Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Group. You can follow him @ThHauschildt

34 Responses to “Did we ever really abolish the slave trade?”

  1. Scott Wilson

    Damn. Very good read.

  2. Adc

    Exploited labor in Qatar stadium story is the small tip of a giant iceberg. There is a servile caste of more than ten million in the Arabian Peninsula, mostly from Asia, predominantly South Asia and the archipelago nations. They are largely ignored in the media. For every media story about third country nationals in Arabia (TCN’s) there are a thousand about slavery in antebellum America.

    The main service we can do to those experiencing exploitation is to shift the public debate 100% from historical slavery to contemporary slavery.

  3. LB

    Debt bondage, often passed onto the forthcoming generations, is common

    ==============

    Rampant in the UK too. The welfare state has 9 trillion of debts, pensions included. Why should the new born be lumbered with a 300,000 debt because of socialism lets spend the contributions now approach to the retirement issue.

    Just typical hypocrisy by the left. Debt bondage is bad for others, but when we do debt bondage its good.

  4. blarg1987

    Have you actually heard back from the OBR etc following our last discussion? If so what was their actual reply?

  5. Guest

    Ah yes, you see us as slaves to you. What a surprise. Then you blame the non-existent socialism.

    And yes, how dare spending be based on having workers alive! Evil, etc.

  6. Cole

    I imagine right winger like you are in favour of slavery, especially if it lets you buy cheap goods. Your cost was totally irrelevant.

  7. Cole

    Should have rad ‘your post was totally irrelevant’.

  8. LB

    Not irrelevant for the poor. It’s so large it can’t be paid. That’s their retirement gone.

    For the young, you avoiding the problem. Why should being born in to debt be bad in the 3rd world, but you think its a great idea for the UK new borns.

  9. LB

    How dare the new born in the UK be born into debt bondage, bond to pay of the state’s debts.

  10. LB

    They cannot tell anyone on what events the none payment of pensions is contingent on.

    What a surprise.

    Neither can you

  11. LB

    I only know of one case of purchasing a slave of which I approve. There will be a few others.

    Otherwise slavery is abhorent. As is debt bondage. That’s a speciality of the state isn’t it?

    As for the cases of buying slaves being good, the case in question was one where a slave was bought to rescue them from slavery.

  12. blarg1987

    Again, following our last discussion, did you inform the OBR, treasury etc about what you perceive as the debt the welfare state has and what was their reply?

  13. LB

    Just told you.

    The specific question was about what were the contingent events that would cause the debt not to be paid. ie. No state pension or partial payments of the state pension.

    They don’t know.

    So why would you think that they say the state pension is contingent, but don’t know what its contingent on?

    It’s not that it is inflation, or life expectancy. For inflation the inflation linked gilts are on the books. For both, they expect companies to report their debts.

    So its back to the obvious conclusion. They ain’t going to pay.

    Quite why you back them up when they won’t pay is the more interesting question.

    The obvious answer is that you are creaming off money as income from the incoming funds.

    Or perhaps you can suggest another as to why you and they deny that anyone is owed a pension for their past contributions.

  14. LB

    So now I’ve done as you requested and given you the answer.

    Now its your turn. I’ve asked you repeatedly and you are unwilling to answer.

    How much does the state owe for its pensions? Hard cash terms.

  15. blarg1987

    No you haven’t answered my question so that is why I asked you again otherwise you would say yes I have heard back or no I am still waiting for a reply.

    And I have answered your question in the past before which is that it is impossible to quantify due to the many variables that have to be calculated even your own sources which you try to use to back up your claim clearly say this that anything they have published is extremely rough and can not be used in any factual manner.

  16. LB

    I have answer it. I have given you their reply. They cannot state what are the contigent events that mean the state won’t pay.

    In other words, the 7,200 bn pension debt (current) is accurate.

    Since you don’t believe that I’ll ask you to do exactly what you’ve asked me.

    Write to the ONS and ask them what the 95% confidence bounds are for their estimate. You can also ask them what the contingent events are that means the state won’t pay.

  17. blarg1987

    So you re telling me you have actually asked them and that is the official reply or what you are assuming?

    It does not mean the number you quote is accurate as their report admitted it was’t originally. Also it sounds like you asked a loaded question. Lets be honest contigent events are hard to quantify, for example would you expect them to say the fall of civilisation in their reply or world war 3? Or even infertility of the human race?

    There are so many variables that it is impossible to quantify. For example can you tell me exactly every single move you will make this week down to timing and direction? The answer is you can not can you, as there are many variables that are outside your control for example walking to the shop someone getting in the way of your route of travel.

  18. LB

    Reply.

    Now are you going to write to the ONS or are you going to bullshit around.

    There are so many variables that it is impossible to quantify.

    No there aren’t. What are the bits of information you need to know?

    1. Past payments. They are known exactly aren’t they? The DWP knows who has paid and how much. They know what people are entitled too for past payments.

    2. Ages and sex of the people with entitlements. Known exactly.

    3. Terms and conditions of the current state pension. Known exactly.

    4. Inflation – its irrelevant. Since 1 pound now is worth 1 pound plus inflation in a years time, its not needed. The pension is linked to inflation. It cancels out.

    5. Life expectancy. It’s a mathematical certainty that with 40 million people entitled that the life expectancy of that cohort is known to a high degree of accuracy. Read up on the central limit theorem as to why.

    So every thing is known to a high degree of certainty.

    In fact the only contingent even is number 3. The state defaulting.

  19. LB

    So write to the ONS, just as you demanded. Ask what variables go into the calculation and which they don’t know with a high degree of certainty.

    In the meantime, you aren’t answering the other question posed. Are you making a living off the contributions? If you work for the state you are.

  20. blarg1987

    Life expectancy. It’s a mathematical certainty that with 40 million people entitled that the life expectancy of that cohort is known to a high degree of accuracy. Not necessarily as the limit is anywhere between 20 – over 100, you can do an approximation, but it is not going to be a guarantee.

    Other variables include how well the economy is doing as a whole, people coming in, people emigrating, etc.

    And to answer your point I am self employed, also one thing I have never raked my head around is when did this deficit meant to appear? If the whole system is as flawed as you say it is then would you have to not go back to 1945? However you imply it is a more recent problem.

  21. LB

    Life expectancy. It’s a mathematical certainty that with 40 million people entitled that the life expectancy of that cohort is known to a high degree of accuracy

    So what you are saying is that life expectancy is going to increase. That’s factored in. However, increases make the pensions More expensive. Given there is no way they can pay 7.2 trillion making it more expensive is irrelevant.

    Other variables include how well the economy is doing as a whole, people coming in, people emigrating, etc.

    No. Completely irrelevant. It is past pension debts. Not future pensions debts. Future payments, because of migration are not included. The 7.2 trillion is just what the state owes for past payments. Migration in the future is not included.

    one thing I have never raked my head around is when did this deficit meant to appear?

    Which deficit? Lets see. For the individual the median worker is down 900,000 pounds. That’s already here. Perhaps that’s why you don’t want to discuss the deficit.

    Or is it assets < liabiltiies? That's a deficit. 7,200 bn pounds, at least.

    Or is it a cash deficit? Spending more than comes in?

    Very simple way to find out is there? Just go and look at the accounts. It's currently in deficit.

    All of them are bad for the public.

    If the whole system is as flawed as you say it is then would you have to not go back to 1945?

    No, you can't go back. You end up with destitute pensioners. More Victorian workhouse than post war. But you're in denial. According to you the state owes nothing because its 'contingent' Nothing owed means the state doesn't have to pay.

    However you imply it is a more recent problem.

    Nope. The reason the problem is so large is that its accumulated over time. The reason it cannot be solved apart from making people destitute is that its so large.

  22. Cole

    What on earth are you going on about?

  23. Cole

    So where so the 9 trillion debt figures come from?

  24. Guest

    Yes, he can. You and your agenda to try and genocide workers.

  25. Guest

    You haven’t provided any evidence. You’re unwilling to take any answer which is not genocidal, that’s your “issue”.

    And read. The. Official. Figures.

  26. Guest

    YOU demand there be no payment, by being genocidal to the state’s assets, workers.

    Of course everyone needs to work for you for free too!

  27. Guest

    “Work for me for free!”

    And of course you think state workers live off their pensions…shows your level of delusion.

  28. Guest

    That’s your demand, that the state default because it murders it’s assets, it’s workers.

    That’s what’s certain here – your attempt to prevent pensions being paid by genocide.

  29. Guest

    No, life expectancy is going to fall, if anything, at current trends. As you blame immigrants for your lack of understanding anything except your determination to murder British workers so pensions can’t be paid.

    And easy – when workers are alive, in your parlance, which can’t be allowed to happen!

  30. Guest

    No, they’re not rescued when you own them.

  31. Guest

    YOU don’t know. YOU. You refuse to understand the fact that workers are assets, given you want to murder them. YOU are telling people that you want to murder them rather than see them pay into a pension, that it’s “cheating” that they’re alive to do so.

    YOU demand there be genocide, not payment. YOU.

  32. Guest

    No, that’s your answer, to murder them. Your call, your demand.

    And yes, why should they be paying you to leech off them?

  33. Guest

    You want them dead, right. To never live, for the kids – can’t allow British people to survive unless they’re rich, blah blah.

  34. Guest

    No, that’s your own justification for slavery.

    Of course you can’t understand why pensions should be paid rather than workers murdered, how dare people be alive!

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