Slaves have never been this cheap!

by way of

Since the end of the cold war system, slavery along with organized crime has been on the rise. There is an unprecedented supply of potential slaves in the substantial share of the world’s population that live in absolute poverty ($ 1 a day or less), in Africa and, increasingly, the most destitute parts of the former Soviet Union. In fact slaves have never been as cheap as they are today. While slavery is a long established practice- as old as human civilization- the price of slaves is estimated to have varied around $ 10.000- 40.000 (in current prices) over the last 3.500 years or so. Today the average price of a human life has collapsed to a historic low of $ 100.

The economic weight of slave labour is small in absolute terms. (American pre-civil war cotton was primarily a slave-made good, the proportion of today’s global cotton harvest touched by slaves may be 1 or 2 per cent at most.) But the practice is so widespread at the bottom of today’s global commodity chains that it is difficult to find products that have not been made by slaves to at least some extent:

‘In Brazil, for example, slaves cut down forests and burn the wood into charcoal to be used to make steel. The European Union imports nearly a million tonnes of Brazilian steel each year to produce everything from cars to buildings to toys. Slavery is in fruit bowls and fridges too. There are documented cases of slaves being used to harvest or produce coffee, sugar, beef, tomatoes, lettuce, apples and other fruit. The list goes on: shrimp and other fish products are suspect, as are cocoa, steel, gold, tin, diamonds, jewellery and bangles, tantalum (used in mobile phones and laptops), shoes, sporting goods, clothing, fireworks, rice, bricks.’

From Kavin Bales of free the slaves, by way of financial times (premium content, alas!)

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