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DUPS A-Team: The Modern Slavery Act 2015: a success?

Updated: Feb 3, 2019

Since the abolition of slavery in the 19th century, slavery has changed its form slightly into what we know it as now. A person is considered to be living in modern slavery if they find themselves trapped doing any of the following things: forced labour, bonded labour, human trafficking, child slavery or forced marriage. The easiest way to understand if someone is living in slavery is to consider whether they are forced to do something, owned or controlled by someone else, dehumanised or treated as property, or have their freedom of movement restricted or controlled.

In 2015, the Modern Slavery Act was passed through Parliament with an aim to tackle slavery through consolidation of previous legislature, as well as the inclusion of new measures. Under the new Act, any traffickers or slave masters found guilty face a possible life sentence. The Act has limited the movements and freedoms of suspected traffickers and improved the support that victims of slavery receive from the government. Further, it has established the role of the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner responsible for holding the government and companies accountable, so to ensure results are achieved in abolishing slavery. Importantly, it also requires businesses to report on how they tackle slavery in their global supply chains ensuring corporations to achieve greater transparency and visibility of their supply chains.

In Britain alone, the number of people estimated to be living in slavery is about 136,000.[1] This is more than ten times the number estimated by the government in 2013. Although this may seem alarming at first, Tom Dowdall of the National Crime Agency suggests it is due to increased vigilance amongst companies about the production of their products. This has resulted in a larger number of cases are being reported. Whilst this appears to tackle some forms of modern slavery, there are other areas which has experienced less of an impact. For example, currently only 1% of sex trafficking victims see their perpetrator brought to justice.[2]

In addition to this, at the end of 2017, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) produced a report, inter alia, on the estimates of forced labour, which found at the time of producing the report there were more than 40 million victims of slavery worldwide.[3] Furthermore, the report found that modern slavery as an industry generated $150billion (£116b) in 2012 alone. Compare this to the $124million (£96m) in funding that was supplied by all OECD countries combined to fight human trafficking in 2012[4] and it very quickly becomes clear that there is still a long way to go to abolishing modern slavery globally.

Another potential pitfall appears to be the knowledge and awareness achieved amongst the public about modern slavery. Research conducted in 2017 suggested that 4 in every 10 people in the UK were not sure what it actually was. Even more alarming is that the same research found that a third of people who did know what slavery was did not believe it was happening in the city that they lived in.[5]

The Modern Slavery Act 2015 is a step in the right direction. However, it is clear that significantly more needs to be done. Despite greater accountability and transparency of supply chains, there is a need for greater awareness to be raised amongst the public so to equip individuals with the correct knowledge to enable them to spot the warning signs of modern slavery. Other recent global campaigns, such as MeToo, have shown that where we shout enough about an issue, people are more willing to discuss the problem and changes can and will be made!

Billy Dean


28 Jan 2019


[1] Walk Free Foundation, Global Slavery Index (2018)

[2] Ibid

[3] Report: Global Estimates of Forced Slavery, Independent Labour Organisation (2017)

[4] Ibid

[5] Human Trafficking and Anti-Slavery Report, Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner (2017)

Disclaimer: The views expressed are that of the individual author. All rights are reserved to the original authors of the materials consulted, which are identified in the footnotes above.

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