One of the biggest questions we get asked is “how is slavery different to exploitation?” Was the 7eleven incident exploitation or slavery? What about kids working in their parents business?
These are great questions. Many people confuse exploitative working conditions and modern slavery as one and the same. However, although both involve unfair treatment of employees, there are important differences between the two.
Exploitation at work occurs when the employer benefits unfairly from the employee’s work. For example, employees may not be paid what they deserve, or they may be working in a dangerous environment. To change these exploitative conditions, employees can negotiate with the employer or sue the employer for violating labor rights.
To learn more about international labor rights, check out The International Labour Organisation website.
Meanwhile, modern slavery is when “coercion, threats or deception are used to exploit victims and undermine or deprive them of their freedom” (Commonwealth Modern Slavery Act 2018). Forced labour, forced marriage, and servitude are examples of modern slavery. A victim of modern slavery has little power to escape from their employers. However, once they are freed, victims can get help from police and non-profit organisations to file charges against their perpetrators.
The Important Difference
Although modern slavery includes exploitation, working under exploitative conditions does not always mean a person is a victim of modern slavery. It is important to remember that victims of modern slavery do not have freedom. They are usually not allowed to leave their job, the place they live in, or contact authorities for help. On the other hand, an employee can choose to quit their job if they feel that the working conditions are exploitative.
What You Can Do To Help
It is difficult for victims to escape modern slavery, but it is also difficult for them to reestablish their lives after they have been freed. That is why The Freedom Hub is dedicated to helping survivors of modern slavery by teaching them life skills and professional skills to get them back on their feet. A big part of our education is teaching our survivors their work rights in Australia, how to navigate Fair Work Australia, how to read contracts and stand up for their rights.
100% of our profits from our Café and Event Venue go towards our Survivor School. Find out how you can contribute here
Written by Khanh Nguyen, Freedom Hub Intern