Genevieve LeBaron & Nicola Phillips (2018)
States and the Political Economy of Unfree Labour.
New Political Economy (doi: 10.1080/13563467.2017.1420642).
New Political Economy (doi: 10.1080/13563467.2017.1420642).
The issue of contemporary unfree labour is increasingly gaining traction, as researchers and policymakers seek to understand why this is such a resilient problem today. How do states fit into the equation? This article examines the role of states in unfree labour, arguing that states in fact play a critical role in creating conditions in which unfree labour can flourish.
Socio-Economic Review (doi: 10.1093/ser/mwx047).
The last decade has been marked by calls for greater corporate accountability for labour standards in global supply chains. As a result, states have been pressured to pass legislation combat exploitation in global supply chains. This article examines the regulatory processes behind the passage of the UK’s 2015 Modern Slavery Act, documenting how industry actors and NGOs are impacting policymaking processes.
Regulation & Governance (doi: 10.1111/rego.12162).
A lot of research looks at the emergence and resilience of forced labor in developing countries within global value chains. But what about the proliferation of forced labour within countries’ national borders? This article analyses forced labour in domestic supply chains in the UK, focusing on the construction, food, and cannabis industries. It finds that, despite attempts to strengthen governance systems to combat forced labour over the past few years, regulatory gaps continue to surround forced labour in domestic supply chains.
Globalizations 14(6): 958-975.
Despite two decades of evidence documenting the failures of audit programs to detect or correct labour and environmental problems in global supply chains, the ethical audit regime has nevertheless continued to expand. Drawing on original field research, this article concludes that the audit regime continues to respond to and protect industry commercial interests.
Global Policy Journal 8(3): 15-28.
In recent years, the absence of binding international labour standards has pushed home states of multinationals towards using public regulation to bridge gaps left by international law. Using case studies of the 2015 UK Modern Slavery Act and 2010 UK Bribery Act, this article concludes that legislation that creates criminal corporate liability seems to spur deeper changes to corporate strategy than pushes towards voluntary reporting.
Review of International Studies 41(5): 905-924.
Drawing on original interviews, this article assess the effectiveness of supply chain benchmarks and audits in promoting environmental and social improvements in global retail supply chains. ‘Ethical audit’ regimes are not only ineffective for reducing the risk of sourcing from suppliers with poor practices; they also serve corporate interests by helping them conceal real problems in global supply chains.
Brown Journal of World Affairs 20(2): 237-249.
The growing evidence that subcontracting and outsourcing fuels forced labour urges us to consider whether current supply chain transparency initiatives – that leave the dynamics of outsourcing and subcontracting fully intact – are really working. This article urges policy makers, nongovernmental organizations, and social audit firms to change their understanding of corporate responsibility for labor practices within global supply chains.
International Feminist Journal of Politics 17(1): 1-19.
Using a feminist political economy framework, this article departs from mainstream accounts that view ‘modern-day slavery’ and unfree labour in isolation from markets and shifting global networks of production. Instead, it argues that the recent resurgence of unfree labour is rooted in shifting political economic dynamics that have deepened labour market insecurity for certain sections of the population.
Third World Quarterly 34(5): 873-892.
In order to understand the complexities of labour in Africa, we need to move beyond the traditional binary of free and unfree labour. As this article details, this requires an understanding of the various forms and layers of coercion, immobility and exploitation fundamental to the contemporary social structures of capitalist accumulation.
London and Sheffield: openDemocracy and SPERI.
Forced labour within supply chains frequently follows observable patterns, yet current global labour initiatives are failing to address the root causes underlying these patterns. Where do we go from here? This study provides an overview of the root causes of forced labour in global supply chains, and proposes new policy interventions to tackle them.
Geneva: International Labour Organization.
The governance of global supply chains is increasingly being identified as one of the key challenges for global economic governance. This study analyses the rise of disclosure legislation as an approach to governing labour standards in global supply chains, proposing a typology to analyse the various forms of disclosure legislation passed by states and offers a framework for evaluating new legislation as it is passed, including its stringency, design, and institutional effectiveness.
Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute.
In recent years, we have seen an increase of severe labour violations, despite the expansion of the ethical auditing schemes. What does this say about the ethical auditing regime? If it is not serving workers, who is it really benefiting? Based on interviews with ethical auditors, business executives, NGOs and supplier firms, as well as factory visits, this brief argues that the audit regime is ‘working’ for corporations, but failing workers and the planet.
London: Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
Through ‘light-touch’ regulation of business and a heavy hand on immigration, the UK economy creates creates a pool of people vulnerable to forced labour, allowing for severe exploitation to be used when it makes business sense to do so. This report documents how businesses profit from forced labour, with a focus on the construction industry, the food sector and cannabis ‘grow-ops’ in the UK.
Current approaches to responsible sourcing tend to focus on tracing the product supply chain, instead of the labour supply chain. The result? Companies cannot easily trace where workers have come from or the types of exploitation they have been exposed to.
Despite efforts to combat slavery in their overseas supply chains, UK-based companies are still failing to address severe labour exploitation taking place at home.
Royal Opera House online.
What can an 18th century opera tell us about the experience of contemporary victims of severe labour exploitation? This article argues that what was true then is still true now: vulnerability to exploitation is driven primarily by poverty and a lack of access to decent work.
truthout.org and opendemocracy.net.
Though new transparency regulations theoretically require companies to report on forced labour in their supply chains, new evidence shows that's not what's happening. This article asserts that, unless companies are transparent about the risks of forced labour in their supply chains, it won't be possible to evaluate the effectiveness of the measures they purport to be taking.
Global supply chains are good for corporations, but do they work for workers? This online policy debate convenes nine movers and shakers in the field of labour policy to respond to the following: “'Ending forced labor and modern slavery in global supply chains requires binding legislation, rather than corporate self-regulation and self-disclosure. Yes or no?”
Forced labour doesn't need to be as hidden as we currently think it is. This article contends that it’s not the so-called hidden nature of forced labour that prevent us from developing meaningful strategies for combating forced labour in global supply chains, but rather our inadequate understandings of the business of forced labour.