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Are tech worker shortages to blame for a predicted spike in forced labor?

  • Published on
    August 10, 2023
  • Category:
    Forced Labor, Supply Chain
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According to TechHQ, manufacturing titans in Asia are facing a labor crisis with more and more young workers dropping out of the manufacturing sector in technology supply chains, raising concerns that companies may be looking to forced labor in response.

Fiona Jacksons from TechHQ reports,

Social media apps like TikTok have given them greater exposure to alternative working lifestyles and, as a result, high aspirations for themselves. They are seeking out employment outside of factory walls which is less physically demanding, has better working conditions, offers higher salaries, and provides more opportunities for development.

They join the service sector, start their own businesses, learn new skills in areas they are passionate about, or pursuit higher education to increase their prospects. Even skilled engineers are turning to well-paying roles in IT rather than working on factory machines.

There has also been a shift since it became widely known that forced labor and child labor cloud the supply chains of many technology giants with factories  across Asia. Complex supply chains combined with a lack of transparency and weak laws that fail to hold businesses accountable for human rights abuses, means that companies like Apple – which has been linked to forced labor in the Uyghur Region – can get away with exploiting workers.  

Tech companies need to be held accountable

Multi-billion dollar tech companies pointing to workers’ reasonable demands for good working conditions, and subsequent worker shortages if they refuse to participate in a race to the bottom, as an insurmountable business cost, is an astoundingly cynical perspective. There is simply never an excuse for forced labor and tech giants have the resources to ensure they aren’t complicit in forced labor systems.

Freedom United is concerned that Apple’s suppliers are implicated in Uyghur forced labor in China, where over one million Uyghurs and other Turkic and Muslim people have been detained in the Uyghur Region since 2017 in a repressive campaign that involves sterilization, torture, and family separation, in addition to forced labor.

Tech giants like Apple can no longer claim ignorance about the risks of forced labor linked to the Uyghur Region of China. That’s why we are urging Apple to end all business relationships with suppliers that support and participate in the Uyghur forced labor system. 

Supply chain transparency is critical

And it’s not just Apple. Companies have been getting away with ignoring forced labor in their supply chains for too long. Strong mandatory human rights due diligence laws are needed to hold businesses accountable for abuses in their supply chains and provide remedy for workers. 

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