EU: Sales ban on products and goods made with forced labor


Worldwide, modern slavery is on the rise, and with it, goods and products made under forced labor. The work usually takes place under poor conditions, violence, or threat of violence. The EU Commission is now proposing a ban on the sale and import of products made with forced labor. 

Bricks, textiles, and electronics. Tobacco, tea, and coffee. Cement, cobalt, gold—the U.S. Department of Labor’s list is long. It lists goods produced by forced or child labor. All over the world, people are enslaved to fill the wallets of a few. Nearly 50 million by 2021. The EU Commission now wants to ban the sale of such goods and products on the European market. A first step.

EU Commission wants to ban the sale of goods and products made with forced labor

The EU Commission has proposed a ban on products made under forced labor on the EU market. Under the proposed conditions, it would not matter whether the products were manufactured in the EU or in third countries. As soon as forced labor occurs during production, processing or delivery, the sale should be prohibited. 

“Europe cannot export values and principles and import products made with forced labor.” Inma Rodríguez-Piñero, coordinator of the S&D Group in the Committee on International Trade. 

Confiscation of goods produced by forced labor

The EU Commission’s proposal provides that authorities can seize products and goods if forced labor is suspected. In this context, suspicion alone is sufficient for seizure. For example, through information provided by interest groups, NGOs, and workers—even if these are submitted anonymously. 

Seized goods should only be released if the responsible company can prove that no forced labor was used. If the goods were produced under duress, then the company must compensate the workers. In this case, the goods should not be released until those responsible have taken action against the forced labor.

The EU has already passed a similar ban that prohibits the import of products and goods that contribute to the deforestation of the rainforest. 

Study: Modern slavery continues to rise

Modern slavery has many faces: forced labor, forced marriage, prostitution, debt bondage and human trafficking, to name just a few. The work usually takes place under poor working conditions, violence, or threats of violence, abuse and sexual exploitation.

The global community has seen an accelerated increase in cases over the past five years, with the estimated number at 40 million in 2016 and nearly 50 million by 2021. Since the majority of forced labor occurs in the private sector, the unreported number is likely much higher.   

Nearly 27.6 million people work without pay and under duress, including 3.3 million children. Another 22 million were forcibly married. Among the 6.3 million people forced into prostitution are 4.9 million women and girls. 

A ban on the sale of products manufactured under forced labor can help to combat modern slavery. Only when it is no longer profitable will the situation of those affected improve. 

The ban will not abolish modern slavery, yet it is an important step on the way there. 


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