Introducing our course on forced and precarious labour in the global economy
This is a free online open access course developed by members of the Beyond Trafficking and Slavery editorial team. It contains eight distinct modules and a series of interactive exercises. Taken together, these different components offer a comprehensive introduction to the global politics of forced and precarious labour. In addition, the different modules and exercises can also be used separately to explore specific issues.
1. Introducing the global challenge of forced and precarious labour
Human trafficking and 'modern slavery' are the tip of the iceberg. Dive into the course to see the full depth.
2. Global supply chains and labour exploitation
What drive business to exploit workers, and why do workers accept it?
3. Combating labour exploitation in global supply chains
With the right political will we can reduce labour exploitation in global supply chains
4. Migrant labour and the global economy
Migrant workers aren't inherently vulnerable – our immigration systems make them that way
5. Legal rights and workplace protections for migrant workers
It's not a question of 'what can be done?', but one of 'what are we willing to do?'
6. Commercial sex and the global economy
Three stories of commercial sex – which can protect the people engaged in it most?
7. Commercial sex and decent work
Heed the call for rights not rescue
8. Strategies for combating forced and precarious labour
What is to be done?
Week one activity: evaluating root causes, part one
What causes forced and precarious labour? Corporate power? Lack of alternatives? Decide what matters most.
Week two activity: evaluating root causes, part two
What causes forced and precarious labour? Historical wrongs? Racism and discrimination? Decide what matters most.
Week three activity: evaluating potential solutions, part one
What could combat forced and precarious labour? New laws? Prosecutions? CSR? Workplace inspections?
Week four activity: evaluating potential solutions, part two
What could combat forced and precarious labour? Awareness raising? Ethical consumption? Collective organising?
Week five activity: political difficulty and potential efficacy, part one
Changing the world has never been easy. Reform visas? Open borders? What could be both politically possible and effective?
Week six activity: political difficulty and potential efficacy, part two
What are the political challenges associated with different approaches to regulating sex work? What is possible to change?
Week seven activity: political difficulty and potential efficacy, part three
What could transform the world? How about a global redistribution of wealth? What about universal basic income?
Haven't had enough?
Keep exploring and learning with Beyond Slavery's Short Course
Keep exploring and learning with Beyond Slavery's Short Course
Activists, academics, trade unions, governments and NGOs around the world are trying to understand and address forced labour, human trafficking, and modern slavery. New initiatives are constantly being tried out, however the frequently poor track record of past efforts in this area means that there is an urgent need for both additional research and further conversations regarding the best pathways forward. With labour exploitation and inequality on the rise, and debates over migration intensifying, high-level policy debates regarding forced labour, trafficking, and slavery can be expected to continue for the foreseeable future.
The BTS Short Course seeks to constructively influence these debates by bringing together and evaluating the best available research under one roof. It is designed to inform a new wave of scholars, policy-makers, and practitioners who are currently making their way through school systems and universities around the world. Our approach combines the rigour of academic scholarship, the clarity of journalism, and the immediacy of political advocacy in order to address the political, economic, and social root causes of exploitation, vulnerability, and forced labour around the world.
The BTS Short Course is the world's first open access ‘e-syllabus’ on forced labour, trafficking, and slavery. With 167 contributions from 150 top academics and practitioners, this 900-page, eight-volume set is packed with insights from the some of the best and most progressive scholarship and activism currently available. We have made this free for download so that not only practitioners and students in the global north can access this scholarship, but also readers working in organisations and institutions unable to pay for expensive academic journal and subscription services.
1. Popular and political representations
Joel Quirk and Julia O'Connell Davidson (eds)
Much of what people think they know about human trafficking and ‘modern-day slavery’ is inaccurate, incomplete or unfounded. In order to help get their message out, political activists and government officials have repeatedly turned to a range of simplistic and misleading images, dubious ‘statistics’, and self-serving narratives. These narratives have had all kinds of negative consequences. Thanks to an often voyeuristic interest in commercial sexual abuse, much less interest has been directed towards ‘unsexy’ problems and practices. Thanks to the construction of migration as a problem and threat, policy responses have focused upon telling migrants to ‘stay at home’. Thanks to the popularity of ‘slavery as exception’, global patterns of systemic abuse, exploitation, and discrimination have been routinely dispatched to the margins of political conversations. Thanks to the depiction of trafficking victims as ‘exotic outsiders’ in need of rescue and salvation, there has been an uncritical return to some of the worst tropes of the colonial ‘civilising mission’. This must change.
2. Forced labour in the global economy
Genevieve LeBaron and Neil Howard (eds)
There is a growing and sober awareness among international policymakers and within global civil society that human trafficking, slavery and forced labour are not anomalies perpetuated by a few ‘bad apple’ employers. Rather, such severe labour exploitation is an endemic feature of the contemporary global economy. This edited collection brings together some of the sharpest minds from the worlds of academia and activism to investigate and shed light on the root causes of this exploitation. Its essays analyse how business demand for forced labour manifests in certain industries, as well as how political and economic factors combine to generate a supply of workers vulnerable to abuse. Written in intelligent yet accessible prose, it represents a key resource for policy, activism and research.
3. State and the law
Prabha Kotiswaran and Sam Okyere (eds)
The articles in this volume outline and critically interrogate the role of the state, national legislation and international conventions in shaping the understanding and construction of those conditions deemed to constitute modern forms of slavery. Our contributors further highlight the role of the state and national legislation in creating or allowing the varying forms of insecurities that necessitate entry into various precarious engagements. It is evident from these that the state plays a hugely significant role in the modern slavery discourse. It can be either a force for good or bad. Those who wish to see human rights and social justice realised at much higher level than that found in abolitionist discourse must recognise and be willing to engage politically with the state sponsored system of injustice.
4. On history
Joel Quirk and Genevieve LeBaron (eds)
Campaigners and governments leading the fight to end ‘modern-day slavery’ selectively appeal to history to help justify their current activities. They uncritically praise Anglo-Saxon anti-slavery efforts, but have remarkably little to say about the larger history of enslavement, slave resistance, or the contemporary legacies of historical slave systems. Centuries of severe exploitation, racial subjugation, and violent abuse have too often been lost in the rush to celebrate the ‘moral triumph’ of abolition. The legal abolition of slavery was not a gift from great emancipators. Nor did it mark an end to the need for resistance. Former slaves were never compensated for their decades of toil and abuse, and their former masters made every effort to defend their privileges, contributing to global patterns of wealth, poverty, inequality, and discrimination that remain with us to this day.
5. Migration and Mobility
Julia O'Connell Davidson and Neil Howard (eds)
Mobility is and always has been an essential part of humanity’s economic, social, cultural and political life. To be able to move freely is a good. Yet in our unjust world, it is also an unearned and unequally distributed privilege. This volume reflects on that privilege, and on the suffering that results when states restrict access to it. The articles included here will explode the spurious contemporary binary between ‘smuggling’ and ‘trafficking’, and will argue that anti-trafficking discourse hides more than it reveals. Most crucially, it hides how state restrictions on the freedom of movement are the true threat to human wellbeing. Open the borders!
6. Race, Ethnicity and Belonging
Joel Quirk and Julia O'Connell Davidson (eds)
Slavery cannot be reduced to a chapter in history that is now closed, but must instead be regarded as a continuing and fundamental wound. As recent campaigns around ‘black lives matter’ and the prison industrial complex have further demonstrated, the idea of race—and racism as a system of domination—are intimately bound up with the history and legacies of transatlantic slavery. Despite their professed concern with slavery today, self-proclaimed ‘modern-day abolitionists’ have remarkably little to say about slavery and racism. They instead argue that we need to think about poverty, rather than race, since ‘modern slavery’ is colour blind. This book seeks to expose the profound limitations of this popular approach. Over the course of twenty chapters, some of the world's leading experts illustrate how and why racism and other forms of discrimination continue to shape contemporary patterns of marginalisation, exclusion, and government and corporate complicity.
7. Childhood and Youth
Neil Howard and Sam Okyere (eds)
This volume, replete with contributions from world-renowned children’s rights academics and practitioners, argues that the dominant abolitionist discourse and its associated policy directives often impede the best interests and rights of the children they purport to ‘protect’ or ‘rescue’. This largely happens because the protections proposed are politically disengaged, fail to tackle the underlying causes of children’s insecurities, and often lack thorough understanding of the social, cultural, and economic circumstances surrounding young people’s work, mobility, and lives. The volume therefore advocates for an approach to securing child and youth welfare that is more nuanced, context specific, non-dogmatic, politically engaged, and takes young people’s own accounts seriously.
Sam Okyere and Prabha Kotiswaran (eds)
Women and girls, 'new abolitionists' say, are disproportionately affected by trafficking because of their prevalence in domestic, care, and sex work. This volume questions the selective focus on these activities, which are alternately characterised as violence and work. It also interrogates still-unresolved questions regarding the status of such work, as well as the ways in which it is understood, valued, recognised, and regulated. Our contributors highlight how gendered inequalities within and between households, as well as within and between nations, anchor the structural violence of global capitalism. Their calls for action push back against the present tendency to dwell on the images of the passive, innocent, vulnerable female victim whose only option is to be 'saved' from bad men. Interventions based on such imagery too often result in women being 'rescued' into situations that do little to improve their circumstances and worse still perpetuate their experiences of domination. Instead, they argue for an emancipatory agenda that fully values the labour and agency of women, one which dismantles prejudice and constraint rather than saves them back into a deeply unequal system.
Contributors to the BTS Short Course
Ana Lucia ARAUJO
Brenda Oude BREUIL
Kristen E. CHENEY
Monisha DAS GUPTA
Roxanne Lynn DOTY
Sara R. FARRIS
Global Network Of Sex Work Projects
Lucrecia Rubio GUNDELL
Ali Moussa IYE
Jilian K. MARSH
E. Ann MCDOUGALL
Alice M. MILLER
Charles W. MILLS
Anne Elizabeth MOORE
Julia O’CONNELL DAVIDSON
Jessica R. PLILEY
P. Khalil SAUCIER
Stephanie J. SILVERMAN
James Brewer STEWART
Tryon P. WOODS