Business and Human Rights

Modern Slavery

What is modern slavery?

Modern slavery is an umbrella term for extreme forms of exploitation like human trafficking, slavery, and slavery-like practices, such as servitude, forced labour, forced marriage, the sale and exploitation of children, and debt bondage. Two-thirds of modern slavery victims are in the Asia-Pacific region, an area in which Aotearoa New Zealand trades extensively. Particular risk countries are Sri Lanka, China, Malaysia, and Indonesia.  

Combatting modern slavery with human rights

Modern slavery is embedded in larger socio-economic structures that could be addressed through the progressive realisation of economic and social rights.

No person working in Aotearoa New Zealand should be treated as a slave, held in servitude, required to perform forced labour, or exploited. Everyone has the human right to fair and just working conditions and to live free from inhumane and degrading treatment.

To realise this human right, we need legislation to identify, address, and eliminate modern slavery and migrant labour exploitation by requiring companies to publicly report on slavery risks in their supply chains. This isn’t new as Australia and the United Kingdom have similar laws. 

Stamping out modern slavery and exploitation is complex and requires a coordinated response between government, businesses, unions, communities, and NGOs. 

Our role 

The Human Rights Commission has put together an advisory group on migrant exploitation to help identify opportunities to improve current law and enforcement as well as measures to quickly recognise and rectify modern slavery in workplaces across the country. 

We are honoured to have some of the best experts on board to work alongside us. They include: 

  • Dr Christina Stringer
  • Dennis Maga
  • Anu Kaloti
  • Dr Arama Rata
  • Jerome Mika
  • Fala Haulangi
  • Richard Leung
  • Matanuku Mahuika

The Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Saunoamaali’i Karanina Sumeo is leading this important kaupapa alongside the Race Relations Commissioner, Meng Foon. 

We all have a role to play to end human trafficking, worker exploitation, and modern slavery in Aotearoa New Zealand.