Forced Labor at the Intersection of Trade and Immigration

Event date
7 June 2022
Event time
15:30 - 17:00
Oxford week
TT 7
Bonavero Institute of Human Rights
Jennifer Gordon

Notes & Changes

This is a hybrid event. To attend online, register here. The in-person event will take place in the Gilly Leventis Meeting Room at the Bonavero Institute. If you would like to attend the event in-person, please email, to secure a place. Please note that this event may be recorded.

In response to pressure from global brands for ever-cheaper labor, some governments in the Global South have begun bringing in migrants to replace citizens as export factory workers. This talk will highlight the risks of forced labor that arise separately in product supply chains and human supply chains, as well as their augmentation at these points where the two intersect. It will then examine possible routes to a solution, focusing on the failures and potential of the global trade regime.  Trade theory has long emphasized low-cost labor as a natural feature of developing economies and therefore a legitimate source of advantage in competition for trade.  This has blinded us to ways that pressure from lead firms has led governments of less-developed countries to construct an artificial comparative advantage in labor, including by offering migrants as a less costly and more controllable workforce in export industries.  Traditional trade sanctions are a troubling response to forced labor here, because—in the rare cases sanctions are applied in response to labor violations—they punish governments in the Global South rather than the Global North firms that drive this phenomenon.  In response, the talk will suggest ways that the trade regime, among other regulatory frameworks, might incorporate measures directly targeting the lead firms whose practices result in forced labor in supply chains.  



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Jennifer Gordon has been a professor on the faculty at Fordham University School of Law in New York City since 2003, teaching immigration law and labor and employment law, as well as an introductory course on legislation and regulation. Her research and writing on migration, trade, and labor standards in the context of globalization has appeared in top academic journals in the United States, and her book, Suburban Sweatshops: The Fight for Immigrant Rights, was published by Harvard University Press.  She has also written on these topics for the New York Times, Foreign Policy, and numerous other media outlets.  Earlier in her career, she founded and directed the Workplace Project, a pioneering immigrant workers’ center in the United States.  Gordon has received a MacArthur Prize Fellowship and an Open Society Fellowship, and was named one of the “Outstanding Woman Lawyers in the United States” by the National Law Journal.  



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Maayan Niezna is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Modern Slavery and Human Right at the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights, and a Fellow of the Modern Slavery Policy and Evidence Centre. Her research focuses on trafficking for labour exploitation and the regulation of labour migration. She holds PhD in Law from Kent Law School, MSc in Human Rights from the London School of Economics, and LL.B in Law and Philosophy from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.



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Human Rights Law