Nov 29 2022

International Day for the Abolition of Slavery is recognised on 2 December each year. According to the International Labour Organisation, more than 40 million people worldwide are victims of modern slavery, and more than 150 million children are subject to child labour, accounting for almost one in 10 children around the world. Senior Lecturer in Geography Dr Laurie Parsons’ current work is focused on understanding how our changing climate is making people around the world vulnerable to exploitative labour practices.

Dr Parsons writes:

'Climate change is no longer a future problem. It is a force reshaping the terms of the global workplace, reordering social relationships, reducing productivity, and worsening worker health. Yet in the drive towards industrial decarbonisation, the everyday struggles of workers in global supply chains battling worsening economic and physical conditions have received little attention, whilst worker voices have been marginalised. In climate change terminology, a focus on adaptation has taken a back seat to mitigation measures. Yet as the evidence of ongoing climate change impacts builds, this imbalance of focus is resulting in workers absorbing the pressures of climate change without support.

'My work at present is focused on understanding how our changing climate is making people around the world vulnerable to exploitative labour practices, including modern slavery. As I aim to show, climate change is a huge ongoing pressure on the tight sums of precarious livelihoods around the world. Barely profitable farms become black holes of investment, poorly paid work becomes a debt trap. The result is a large part of the world becoming increasingly vulnerable to exploitation, as they struggle to plug the gaps in failing livelihoods. Whether this takes its most extreme forms of forced labour, debt bondage and child labour, or more subtle forms of precarity, the changing climate is undermining the safety nets of the global workplace.'