Why aren’t labour rights being fully taking into consideration in global agreements? The unwillingness of the World Trade Organisation to place labour rights on its agenda has been considered a failure of public global governance from the point of view of most of the global labour movement. (Bronfenbrenner, 2007) Although forced labour is universally condemned, ILO estimates show that 20.9 million people around the world are still subjected to it. Of the total number of victims of forced labour, 18.7 million (90 per cent) are exploited in the private economy, by individuals or enterprises, and the remaining 2.2 million (10 per cent) are in state-imposed forms of forced labour (Ilo.org, 2015). Thus arguably is the most urgent issue in the Global political economy today.
Studies have found that wages have generally been rising in more globalised developing economies in relation to workers, wages and other labour issues. The fastest wage growth is occurring in developing economies that are dynamically increasing their integration within the Global economy. Even though this, initially sounds like good news, one cannot dismiss the fact that forced labour is still in existence today. Although, findings indicate that certain types of workers benefit more than others. (Held and Kaya, 2007) More trade appears to lead to more competitive labour markets in which groups have been traditionally discriminated against women such as, the sex industry which has attracted a disproportionate amount of traffickers compared to other industries.
For many Nations around the world, the abolition of forced labour remains to be an important challenge for the 21st century. Not only is forced labour a severe violation of a fundamental human right, it is one of the leading causes of poverty and an interference to economic development. Women and children working in the sex sector and migrant women trafficked for sexual exploitation or forced labour face extreme dangerous vulnerabilities today.
Connections must be made between trafficking and migration and their structural roots should not and cannot be ignored as well as the fact that vulnerable migrant women and girls are major targets for traffickers. Also legal migration for domestic work can have some characteristics of trafficking e.g. non-payment of wages, contract substitution etc. Truong argues that the ‘dark underside of migration are inseparable from processes of globalisation and trade liberalisation’. Therefore trafficking needs to be discussed as a global political economic issue as well as an issue of domestic violence. Unfortunately, the trade of human beings is part of globalisation of trade in goods, investment, production and services and this urgently needs to be addressed in trade policy discussions at the World Trade Organisation. Its saddening how urgent issues like these are constantly being dismissed in society, especially as they have a severe impact on a global scale, yet, not enough is being done to tackle this issue.
By Fahima Hamid
Ilo.org, (2015). International Labour Standards on Forced labour. [online] Available at: http://www.ilo.org/global/standards/subjects-covered-by-international-labour-standards/forced-labour/lang–en/index.htm
Held, D. and Kaya, A. (2007). Global inequality. Cambridge: Polity.
Bronfenbrenner, K. (2007). Global unions. Ithaca [N.Y.]: ILR Press/Cornell University Press.
Truong, T. D. 2000. “Organised crime and Human Trafficking”. In Transnational Organised Crime: Myths, Power and Profit, ed. E. Viano, J. Magallanes, and Laurent Brid. Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press.