World Vision slavery, child labour research: New Zealand households spend $34 a week on 'risky products'

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New Zealanders imported $3.1bn of risky products from 44 countries in 2019, a new report states. Photo / 123RF


More than $3 billion worth of goods linked to forced or child labour are being imported by New Zealand each year, according to new research by World Vision.

The report, Risky Goods New Zealand Imports, outlines which risky goods are coming into the country, where they are coming from and who is being exploited as well as providing recommendations on how to improve the situation.

World Vision national director Grant Bayldon said households were spending $34 a week on average on “risky” goods, including clothing, footwear, toys, furniture, bananas and coffee.

“At the moment the approach is ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’, it’s almost impossible for Kiwis to know exactly what is going on. A Modern Slavery Act would require companies to check who is making their products, to disclose that and to do something about it when modern slavery is found.”

Australia, Britain and several European nations already had such legislation in place, while others – including Canada – were in the process of introducing anti-slavery laws.

Some were going even further and banning imports linked to modern slavery from entering their countries, Bayldon said.

The World Vision report is based on classifications by the United States Department of Labour identifying specific industries and countries linked to forced labour.

Bayldon said making supply chain audits a legal requirement would reduce the risk that legitimate businesses could be unfairly tarnished.

“None of us want to be an unwitting part of enslaving people,” Bayldon said.

“Yet 40 million children, women and men are estimated to be in modern slavery worldwide right now – more than at the height of the Transatlantic slave trade.

“They are making the products that are in our homes and workplaces. If demand for those products ends, so does modern slavery. We can all do something, right now, to help that happen.”

The report’s key findings include that New Zealanders imported $3.1bn of risky products from 44 countries in 2019.

They spent most on risky products from China and garments were the highest-spend risky good with two thirds of them coming from China, with links to forced labour.

The report stated that $1.5bn in imports were associated with forced labour in 2019, $713m with child labour and $920m with both forced labour and child labour.

The report made five recommendations including that the New Zealand government should enact modern slavery legislation and that New Zealand should follow international best practice when designing this legislation.

It also called for companies to take action to identify modern slavery and human rights risks in their operations and supply chains, consumers to make ethical decisions about what they bought, and for more research to be undertaken on New Zealand’s main imports linked to modern slavery.