For initial investments, GFEMS focused on geographies and sectors with high potential for impact, replication, and scale.
We evaluated the extent and nature of modern slavery, intersection with global trends, and specific national priorities to determine which sectors – such as migrant labor, sex trafficking, and construction – might present the greatest opportunity.
Within a given sector in a targeted geography, the Fund seeks a transformative strategy to permanently reduce the prevalence of modern slavery. In developing sector strategies, we aim to align with national economic and political priorities, paving the way for public-private partnerships, host country ownership, and other mechanisms to ensure long term sustainability. Consistent with the Fund’s theory of change, we look to develop a coherent set of interventions addressing rule of law, business investment, and sustained freedom.
Geographically, GFEMS has focused many early investments in Asia (the Philippines, Vietnam, and India) due, in part, to high prevalence in the region and intersections with key global sectors. We aim to build on these first programs and strategies to expand efforts into Africa, the Middle East, and other regions around the world.
GFEMS’ portfolio of projects currently covers four key sectors as well as dedicated research on prevalence:
Nearly a quarter of a billion people migrate internationally each year, primarily for work. Labor migration can be a positive experience but also creates a market for unethical brokers that profit from exploitation and forced labor of migrant workers. Despite numerous ethical recruitment and safe migration initiatives, trafficking of migrants persists globally. GFEMS is taking action to end forced labor of migrants by developing coordinated intervention models that address the multiple drivers of forced labor and can be replicated across migration corridors.
In the Philippines, we are working simultaneously to develop better tracking and identification of forced labor incidents, create a more coordinated response to these incidents, provide viable local job opportunities for would-be migrants through a skilling program (in partnership with publc and private sectors, as described in the Construction section), and develop safer migration channels through ethical recruiters for those who do migrate.
In Vietnam, we are piloting a private sector demand-driven model of ethical recruitment to help catalyze a broader systems change to protect migrants.
Partner spotlight | MIGRANT LABOR
Transforming government response to cases of migrants in forced labor
An estimated 10-20% of Filipina migrant domestic workers will end up in forced labor and/or sexual exploitation, yet only a fraction of these cases are ever reported, much less resolved. Ople Center is creating a digital case management system to enable more effective government detection and response to such cases and establish an interagency forced labor task force to enhance authorities’ capacity to prosecute offenders. A better rule-of-law response to active cases will enhance the momentum of efforts to build ethical alternatives for workers.
Partner spotlight | MIGRANT LABOR
Building ethical recruitment operations from the ground up
Migration remains a necessary pathway for many Filipinos, underscoring the need for safe recruitment and job placement. Successful, large-scale ethical recruiting businesses could meet this need while inciting positive change throughout the recruitment industry. GFEMS is helping a successful ethical recruitment operation in Hong Kong expand its operation in the Philippines to be able to meet the demand for ethically recruited workers and ensure safe migration from start to finish in the Philippines/Hong Kong corridor. The agency will primarily focus on domestic workers (an occupation with disproportionately high levels of abuse), but also expand to other at-risk industries such as hospitality, elderly care, and construction.
An estimated 5 million people globally, many of whom are children, are victims of commercial sexual exploitation. Rescue operations are not reaching a sufficient scale to make a dent in these numbers, as traffickers for the most part continue to operate with impunity. Meanwhile, integrated survivor care that meets the full range of survivor needs is the exception rather than the rule in most contexts, and few proven mechanisms to successfully place survivors into market-based jobs exist at scale.
GFEMS is deploying and testing models of systemic change in the fight against sex trafficking. This means working to transform law enforcement, survivor care, and targeted prevention across a geographic area in a way that local actors can ultimately own and sustain. Current efforts involve building dedicated police capacity to combat the latest trafficking tactics, demonstrating victim-friendly justice models, and testing new investigation and prevention technologies. GFEMS and its partners are documenting the necessary public (and private) sector investments to sustain this broader systems transformation. Across all of these activities, we are rigorously testing the theory of change regarding how increased investigation and better prosecution of traffickers harms their business operations, making them economically unprofitable, and ultimately reduces prevalence.
Partner spotlight | SEX TRAFFICKING
Disrupting traffickers at the source
Ethnic minority women in northern Vietnam, including minors, are at particularly high risk of being trafficked across the border for forced marriage and/or sexual exploitation. The relatively small-scale nature of sex traffickers in these provinces means that effective implementation of new anti-trafficking laws can create a powerful deterrent to their operations. At the invitation of government partners, Blue Dragon is building investigation and prosecution capacity in a way that can be fully transferred to the public sector for long term sustainability and replicated across other provinces for maximum impact. Alongside these “rule of law” efforts, Blue Dragon will test leading-edge models of targeted and customized prevention activities.
Partner spotlight | SEX TRAFFICKING
Partnering with government to draw a red line on commercial sexual exploitation of children
In India, commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) is increasingly online-enabled and occurring in private spaces, putting new demands on law enforcement’s ability to respond to the changing nature of the crime. At the same time, care provided for survivors has been highly variable in its ability to restore survivors and help deliver justice. With support of local government units looking to draw a red line on CSEC in their communities, Prerana and IJM are upgrading the enforcement capability of dedicated anti-trafficking police units and key institutions involved in caring for survivors and facilitating their participation in the justice system. The work targets specific high-risk geographies with an eye towards proving models of law enforcement and trauma-informed survivor restoration that the public sector can replicate and take up elsewhere.
Partner spotlight | SEX TRAFFICKING
Scaling pathways for survivors to access market-based jobs
After being rescued and receiving care for their immediate needs, many survivors still find themselves at a dead end when it comes to getting jobs that can set them on a path towards sustainable restoration. Self-employment and cottage industry training can help a few survivors, but providing alternative livelihoods at scale requires creating a pathway for survivors into market-based jobs in the formal economy. YCI is working with global hotel brands operating in India and Vietnam to demonstrate one of the first models of a demand-driven pathway in the developing world. The project will integrate survivors into an existing program that trains and places at-risk youth into formal jobs in the hospitality industry, charting a path to expand these efforts exponentially in an industry where employment needs are growing by double digits annually.
Construction is a $10 trillion industry globally. Most of its growth is taking place in emerging economies but productivity has lagged behind other sectors in part due to a skills shortage. Construction can be a destination sector for forced labor mediated by corrupt brokers, but it can also be part of the solution, providing decent jobs for millions of low income workers.
The construction industry in India is the country’s second largest employer (accounting for roughly 60 million jobs) and faces a large skilled labor shortage. An estimated 30 to 50 million internal, seasonal migrants aim to fill the gap; however, most are unskilled, usually entering construction in the off-season from agriculture or other subsistence living. Experts estimate that between 5-10% of seasonal migrants journeying across popular migration routes may be at risk of falling into forced and bonded labor through exploitative middle-men or brokers. GFEMS is building a public-private consortium to create a scalable, sustainable, and safe alternative to the existing broker system that promotes the skill development and safe migration of migrant construction workers across India. The initial two-year program will skill and place workers, connect them with licensed recruiters and micro-contractors, and deliver entitlements to thousands of these workers. Data gathered through the longitudinal migration tracking system (which GFEMS and partners are developing) will be used to make the case for a public-private partnership with the potential to scale the program to reach hundreds of thousands, and ultimately millions, of internal migrants.
In the Philippines, the government has announced a national “Build, Build, Build” initiative aimed at job creation and domestic infrastructure development. Aligning with this national priority, GFEMS is working with partners to train thousands of individuals who are vulnerable to trafficking and place them instead in sustainable jobs in the construction sector.
Partner spotlight | CONSTRUCTION
Public-private partnership to create alternatives to risky migration
A large-scale drop in the supply of exploitable migrant workers can alter the labor market in favor of better treatment and increased protection of migrants. But achieving the necessary scale to restrict supply requires massive public and private sector investment in employment alternatives. Villag SIPAG is working to demonstrate a scalable way to provide jobs as alternatives to risky migration for vulnerable populations. Villar SIPAG will use mobile training centers to skill and place workers (in masonry, painting, and welding) in geographically remote, at-risk communities that are often excluded from employment opportunities. The initial two-year project leverages nearly $1.5 million worth of investment from the government and one of the country’s largest private construction firms. It lays the groundwork for a future public-private partnership that meets industry needs for skilled workers, aligns to the “Build, Build, Build” objective, and can protect tens of thousands of workers from exploitation.
Forced labor in the apparel sector is well documented but not well measured, and buyers and brands are generally only able to vouch for ethical production in the final manufacturer in a long and opaque garment supply chain. Tools to address environmental sustainability in manufacturing have not been sufficient to address labor conditions. The Fund is currently working to gauge the precise scale of forced labor in the apparel sector in key geographies; to identify and test the most promising supply chain transparency approaches; and to professionalize supplier operations, enhancing their ability to manage fluctuating demand and ensure ethical labor practices.
Partner spotlight | APPAREL
Predictive modeling to detect forced labor in export supply chains
Detecting and addressing forced labor in apparel supply chains is notoriously challenging due to the limited reach of planned factory audits to uncover violations in labor contracting and especially in hidden sub-contracting to informal and unaccountable suppliers. This is particularly true in the final stage of garment production often known as “cut, make and trim” (CMT). GFEMS is currently working with partner Weave to develop and test a model to predict the risk of unauthorized subcontracting. The methodology calculates the variance between reported output (exports) and production capacity (based on reported labor and productivity / capital estimates). Large variances in a single factory signal high potential for unauthorized sub contracting and hence forced labour risk.
This predictive modeling approach could enable buyers, manufacturers, and government to find unethical suppliers in the supply chain, and the ability to do so could spur efforts to formalize garment manufacturing processes in support of sustained and growing manufacturing exports.
To date, anti-slavery programs have not demonstrated significant, sustainable reduction in prevalence. This is partially because the field has been starved for actionable data on prevalence – it is impossible to understand what works without knowing the precise scale or change in the problem itself. GFEMS is building this evidence base and filling knowledge gaps from the ground up, including by working to accurately measure prevalence in target communities and industries.
To develop effective approaches to measuring prevalence, GFEMS conducted a survey of the landscape of current research and engaged over 70 expert stakeholders to discuss methods and approaches. Through this research we found that few robust estimates of prevalence within a specific geography-sector combination (i.e., a unit of analysis that could drive intervention design) exist and most studies have been costly and time consuming. To drastically reduce cost and time to measure, GFEMS has been designing and testing new data collection and estimation methods. These methods range from the use of mobile devices to understand prevalence in real-time for a migrant cohort to the first ever application of the Network Scale-up Method (NSUM) in the modern slavery context. Our first pilot study achieved a 5x cost reduction and 3.5x time reduction over more expensive estimation approaches.
Partner spotlight | PREVALENCE MANAGEMENT
First-ever use of the NSUM to detect modern slavery
NSUM measures a hidden population indirectly by asking the general population how many people they know in a reference (known) population and in the hidden population. It has been used successfully to measure hidden, at-risk populations in the field of HIV/AIDS research. GFEMS, the University of Singapore and IST collaborated to adapt NSUM to measure the extent of forced labor in a specific industry in a Southeast Asian country. In the pilot study, we were able to take advantage of social media penetration and collect 2500 completed surveys in a period of 14 days (plus 1000 face-to-face surveys over 3 weeks for comparison), dramatically faster than traditional approaches that attempt to reach the hidden population directly. Analysis of the results is now currently underway. This pilot represents both the first use of NSUM in the modern slavery field and the first use of social media to conduct large-sample surveys for prevalence estimation.