The impact of COVID-19 on modern slavery

Updated: May 5

Nine months have passed since this new strain of coronavirus started spreading across our already very delicate world. The impact of immediate and longer-term outcomes of C-19 on those who are living in or are vulnerable to forms of modern slavery is even more pronounced. As we come to terms with the realities of living with C-19, more and more research is being done to understand how it might impact modern slavery. In this short report by Samanthi Theminimulle, we look at how C-19 impact on modes of and vulnerabilities to modern slavery. It also discusses how modern slavery itself is having an impact on C-19 by negatively contributing to the rate of infection and hampering efforts to manage C-19. It pulls together what we already know into one place, drawing on commentaries, grey literature and emerging research.

In particular, five major immediate outcomes of C-19 are impacting modern slavery:

  • Disruption to supply chains are exacerbating existing power imbalances, encouraging suppliers to engage in unfair or exploitative employment practices when they are left to shoulder the risk of cancelled or delayed trade.

  • Mass unemployment, mounting debt due to loss of income and strained or non-existent government social safety nets are creating and exacerbating vulnerabilities to modern slavery, to be taken advantage of by criminal groups and perpetrators of modern slavery.

  • Restriction of movement, self-isolation, social distancing and satisfactory hygiene are particularly difficult for victims of modern slavery. In particular, identifying and providing support to victims and survivors is disrupted.

  • Healthcare systems under additional strain from C-19 is leaving victims and survivors who struggle to access healthcare or have healthcare concerns as a result of modern slavery, with even less access.

  • Significant disruption to efforts to tackle modern slavery undermines efforts by key personnel to prevent and protect victims of modern slavery.

You can read the report in full here.