Slavery is camouflaged. It is there, but we have become oblivious to it.Asif Durrani
Slavery is there every time you see a board room filled with white people, and tea is served by a black person or someone from a different ethnic background. Slavery is there when you are served with caviar for the price, which is not even equivalent to one day’s wage of a person who placed it on the table. You can’t ignore slavery when you spot a particular ethnicity in the housekeeping or underpaid job. You don’t speak up because modern-day slavery serves the pirates and the entire society. You remain silent when you hear statements that particular types of nationalities are suitable for specific industries because it’s a cheap labor. Slavery has come close to us in the name of immigration, cheap labor, or simple globalization.
We consume the by-product of slavery every day. Society is complacent toward modern-day slavery. Each time your wear a branded jacket, you don’t know the story of the person who was stitching your garment. The diamond necklace you gifted to your loved one has a bloodstain that you cannot see underneath that glitter. The coffee you love and the price you pay for it is even more than a day’s wage for the person who works on the farm.
Every time you ask your employees to stamp the time card in the morning and threaten them with consequences if they are a minute late and don’t incentivize them when they go beyond their duty time, you are inching towards modern-day slavery. If you reach your employees over the weekend or after work hours, you are not driving them to work; you have become a slave driver. The employee might reply to you after work message until you have authority; the moment you lower down the Jolly Roger, you will be unanswered.
You exercise the authority on the deprived class of society every time you gauge that oppression is non-repulsive. You lambast at the waiter if your order is mixed up. You show your tantrum if the service queue takes longer than expected. You use tipping to justify your craving for happiness each time you ask for extra service from a therapist.
Slavery will continue until members of society continue to use its by-products. The corporates should not be blamed for the modern-day piracy, but the community should be held responsible who are reaping the benefit of modern-day slavery.
Modern pirates are wise; instead of traveling thousands of miles on the voyage and bringing the enslaved people home, they have outsourced the work to industry specialists. The labor enslaved from Africa during Middle Ages is now transformed into outsourcing in different economies where the cost of business is less. Outsourcing — job creation in less developed economies, third-party business partners, or supply chain solutions. If someone catches you, there is an easy way to offset it against corporate social responsibilities (CSR). A single CSR initiative will baptize your history of corporate exploitation.
Wage imparity is always high for the same level of work, and workers are paid differently because of the place of their habitat. The labor benefits of the same industrial unit are different from country to country. Still, corporate honchos call it a family — a family where each member has the same appetite but feeds differently. The food placed on the non-equal members of the multi-national family is measured to be just sufficient enough for their survival based on the local market. This situation is not much different from the age of piracy when pirates ensured to give enough food so that the laborers could survive till the completion of their jobs.
Workplace safety is another taboo topic in the corporate world. If a person is left with injuries, there is no emergency support mechanism, but if a machine malfunctions, there is a service level agreement. Thanks to the human resource department, who counted the days of sick leave before sending the termination note, and the corporate accountants who made machinery an asset with a place on financial books, the human capital has no place on the balance sheet. Salaries are recorded as an operating expense against the consumption of (human) resources.
The orthodox formula for a successful business is simple; maximize the operating profits by minimizing costs. And it has been done since the infamous golden days of slavery but at the expense of not creating a shared value society and not being sustainable and not being ethically responsible. The abuse of human capital will continue until the next cognitive revolution.
Slavery has gone to the level where you are not welcome to enter the country you are working. Nationality has become an elite club; if you are not a high net worth (HNW), you will be questioned at border control, but if you are an HNW, you are offered a passport based on your investment in the same country. Most of the laborers in the less developed economies cannot even get a travel visa to the companies for which they work. But the company still asks you to get the work done at a much cheaper cost — one of the significant evolution in the modern slavery improvement in the supply chain. You don’t need to bring the enslaved people to your doorsteps, feed them enough for survival, give them primary health care, and make them work for your every day. The supply chain and technology have revolutionized modern-day slavery, and corporate honchos can get their work done by instructing from a different continent. The formula is simple outsource them or label them a business partner. This third party will recruit and exploit those enslaved people with no liability to the actual beneficial owner.
The enslaved mindset has also realized that the handbag stitched by their hands will never have access to touch the catwalk floor. The price of one bag would be higher than the life insurance of the labor who sewed it together; if the worker was fortunate enough to have insurance.
The questions should be asked if the cost of labor is high in their home country, then why the leadership of the corporate world doesn’t move to that country? and why does outsourcing only non-managerial work to underdeveloped?
The argument that their actions create jobs in less developed markets and this helps them to increase the margins is not much different from the middle age slavery. The objective is the same; get the work done by giving enough good for their survival to meet your goal.
It will continue to happen as long as intelligent humans use the authority to drive their objectives from the less competent but skilled fellow humans. To keep that cycle running, the people with power need more obedient skilled workers who can help them keep the coffer filled. The gap is created by the intellectual capitalist who everyday exploits human capital. You don’t have to quote an example of modern-day slavery from diamond mines or garment factories; look around at your corporate floor or the dinner table; when you are waiting for the meal to be served, you will see it without camouflage.
The gap between modern slavery and modern society is not wide; it’s narrow but oblivious. The only way to make that gap visible is to remove the sheer curtain in society by educating more and more people. Break the mindset of being slaved.
It’s the month of May; Happy Labour Day!
27 May 2022