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New Zealand Households Spend $77 A Week On Goods Linked To Child And Forced Labour

New research, released today by World Vision, reveals that New Zealand imported nearly $8 billion worth of goods associated with child and forced labour in 2022.

The Risky Goods – Supply Chain Risk Report finds that 10% of the country’s imports are likely harvested, mined, or produced using modern slavery.

That means the average New Zealand household spends around $77 a week on products implicated in modern slavery, with the riskiest items being electronics, clothing, shoes, toys, furniture, coffee, and bananas.

World Vision’s Head of Advocacy and Justice, Rebekah Armstrong, says the report serves as a wake-up call for all New Zealanders and the incoming National-Act-NZ First Government.

She is challenging the Government to prioritise enacting modern slavery legislation in its first 100 days in office.

“This report hits home, because it shows that the products New Zealanders buy and use every day are linked to child and forced labour. No New Zealander wants to buy products, like phones, shoes, electric vehicles, and coffee, that are tainted by modern slavery.

“It’s the Government’s job to pass legislation that affords rights and protections to those working in our supply chains to ensure that New Zealanders are not unwittingly supporting slavery,” she says.

World Vision wants to see a range of measures to address the issue of modern slavery in New Zealand supply chains, including:

  • The introduction of one law that would require businesses to identify - and take action - if and when they identify modern slavery.
  • The consideration of an import ban on products likely made by child labour or forced labour through amendment of our Customs Excise Act.
  • Further research into modern slavery in identified risky industries such as electronics, coffee, footwear, furniture, bananas, and renewable technologies.
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Armstrong says due diligence legislation and import bans are rapidly becoming standard across OECD countries and New Zealand is an outlier in having no current legislation to address modern slavery.

“Due diligence is fast emerging as the preferred method to tackle modern slavery in supply chains, with recent reviews highlighting the inadequacy of disclosure laws alone.

“The previous Government made a commitment to draft a modern slavery disclosure law and we’re calling on the new Government to go further and introduce robust and comprehensive legislation to address modern slavery, which includes disclosure and due diligence components,” she says.

Risky imports to New Zealand are most likely to originate from China, Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia.

Electronic products are the most likely to be associated with modern slavery, with nearly half of all the risky goods imported being electronic products, such as mobile phones, laptops, as well as electrical components such as batteries, graphic processing units and semiconductors.

New technologies designed to help New Zealand transition to renewable energy sources, such as electronic vehicles, e-bikes, and solar panels are also often risky.

Armstrong says New Zealand manufacturing companies using electronic components and renewable energy sources should take heed of the report.

“It’s really important that New Zealand companies working with high-risk products and renewable energy sources scrutinise their supply chain. As we look to transition to cleaner forms of energy, we must do so in a way that protects human rights. We need to ensure that this transition is just and fair for everyone involved,” she says.

Fast fashion is still one of the greatest contributors to New Zealand’s risky imports, with 86% of all clothing imported likely to have been made using forced and child labour, including an astonishing 99% of baby clothes.

However, fast fashion is now joined by the more recent phenomenon of “fast furniture” – cheap, mass-produced, and on-trend furniture. Imports of furniture to New Zealand increased by 50% between 2019 and 2022.

“Like fast fashion, fast furniture relies on quick turnaround times and cheap production that inevitably exacerbates the risk of worker exploitation. Unless there are laws in place to prevent this kind of exploitation, it will continue to occur,” Armstrong says.

World Vision is calling on the new Government to urgently introduce comprehensive legislation that includes due diligence to address modern slavery. This will require businesses to both identify instances of child and forced labour and to act when they find it.

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