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How Social Science Combats Unfree Labour in the Global Economy

We tend to think of the cruelties of slavery as a thing of the past, something that humanity has largely overcome. This assumption is false. Globally, there are some 46 million people in slavery, according to Kevin Bales, Co-Founder of the NGO Free the Slaves and Professor of Contemporary Slavery at University of Nottingham. Whether it is child workers in African mines, deforestation crews in the Amazon or people trapped in commercial sexual exploitation in Europe, unfree labour is very much a part of our daily lives. Like all other aspects of the economy, slavery has also become a globalised phenomenon – affecting production and supply chains all over the world and generating a 150-billion-dollar trafficking industry. Kevin has studied these new forms of contemporary slavery for two decades. His work, for example as lead author of the Global Slavery Index, has been highly successful in raising awareness and as a researcher and activist, he approaches this complex problem both on an individual as well as a systemic level. For Kevin, slavery itself is not an isolated problem but it is also closely connected to environmental devastation. In his most recent work, he showed that industries which rely heavily on slave labour are also some of the biggest contributors to climate change. At Falling Walls, Kevin provides insights into the vast scope and consequences of contemporary slavery and suggests future paths for tackling one of the most shameful features of the modern world.

Kevin Bales

University of Nottingham

Kevin Bales is the Professor of Contemporary Slavery at the School of Politics and International Relations at the University of Nottingham. He has been a decades-long academic, activist and public figure in the fight against slavery, an issue that is often falsely believed to be a thing of the past in today’s world. His work has made him one of the foremost experts in the field and his novel ways of exposing and battling modern slavery have won him numerous honours.

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