The fashion industry is facing mounting scrutiny over the treatment of workers in its supply chains, but the risk of serious abuses is getting worse, according to a new report published Friday by risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft.
The annual Modern Slavery Index ranks the risk of forced labour around the world. Its findings are based on the strength of countries’ laws against modern slavery, their implementation and enforcement, and the number and severity of violations.
China, India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar and Indonesia have all hit their worst global rankings since 2017, this year’s report found. China, Bangladesh and India, the world’s first-, second-, and fourth-largest garment exporters in the world, are all now rated extreme risk.
Issues of forced labour, people trafficking and other forms of forced labour are long-standing in fashion’s opaque and complex supply chains, but Covid-19 has intensified the risk. It’s increased pressure on factories, stalled on-the-ground inspections of facilities and pushed even more workers into the informal economy.
“Despite tight regulation and legislation in certain countries, for example, Bangladesh, it [isn’t] too out of the norm to see third-party suppliers or subcontractors employing workers from the informal sector,” said Sofia Nazalya, human rights analyst at Verisk Maplecroft. “In the time of Covid-19, when people are facing unemployment and underemployment, it’s this specific group that [is] most… at risk of facing forced labour and modern slavery.”