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Sharing Good Practices in Protection of Workers and Victims of Modern Slavery during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Africa | Americas | Asia | Europe | Oceania |
Sharing Good Practices in Protection of Workers and Victims of Modern Slavery during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Duration: October 2020 – May 2021

Countries: Worldwide

What is this project about?

The COVID-19 pandemic has posed unprecedented challenges for workers and for people affected by modern slavery. The main objective of this project is to conduct evidence-based research on the key impacts of COVID-19 on modern slavery and identify good practices in protecting workers and victims of modern slavery, in order to facilitate a victim-centred approach to protection.

Why are we delivering this project?

One of the major economic impacts of the pandemic is unemployment. Many workers have been unemployed due to various reasons, including lockdown measures, closure of businesses and restrictions on movement. However, some businesses have witnessed a sudden surge of demand for labour, such as those producing, processing and providing essential items such as food, medicines and medical equipment, which might lead to exploitative practices by employers.

At this moment, however, the full impact is yet to be examined thoroughly, as the situation is still evolving. It leaves a number of important questions open, for example – to what extent is unemployment actually pushing people into exploitation and forced labour? Also, while an increase in demand for labour in certain sectors may give strong incentives for businesses to exploit vulnerable individuals, a clear global trend is yet to be established. Questions remain around how states’ focus on tackling the pandemic affected people trapped in modern slavery.

There are also additional questions in relation to wider protection measures: do they address the key impacts of COVID-19 sufficiently? Is protection tailored to address the specific needs of particularly vulnerable populations such as women, children or minorities? Can they be accessed by all workers without discrimination? What are the practical difficulties in implementing them? These are all questions that are yet to be answered, which is why we are delivering this project.

What are we doing?

  • Desktop research of relevant materials published by scholars, governments, NGOs, and international organisations.
  • Collecting up-to-date information on the key impacts of COVID-19 and good practices in protecting workers and victims of modern slavery.
  • Verification of research information and critical analysis through more than 30 interviews with relevant stakeholders around the world.
  • Comparative analysis of the key impacts of COVID-19 and good practices in various sectors in all regions of the world.
  • A project report with evidence-based analysis of the impacts on vulnerable communities across the world and ‘Guiding Principles on Actions against Modern Slavery during the State of Emergency’.

Who are our partners?

A research team from Keele University led by Prof. Tomoya Obokata, who also serves as UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery.

Who is funding this project?

The project has been funded by the Modern Slavery and Human Rights Policy and Evidence Centre through the Art and Humanities Research Council.

Featured image: A labourer carries bricks in a kiln at Langolpota village in North 24 Parganas district in the eastern state of West Bengal, India, November 26, 2019. Credit: Reuters/Ranita Roy.

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