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The outlook for modern slavery in the apparel sector in a post-lockdown economy

Cole, Rosanna; Shirgholami, Zahra


Rosanna Cole


Purpose–This paper argues that the closures will cause regressive rather than progressive modern slavery shifts as the necessity of survival prevailsover addressing modern slavery risks within supply chains.

Design/methodology/approach–In the spring of 2020, global clothing retailers were advised or ordered to close physical stores due to lockdown measures of the COVID-19 pandemic and many supply chains temporarily halted production. This paper explains how pre-pandemic modern slavery advancements will be detrimentally affected as a result of societal lockdowns and apparel retail closures around the world.

Findings–Two consequences of lockdowns are highlighted, which will have negative implications on modern slavery progress. These are the exploitation of vulnerable people, which includes higher exploitation of those already involved in modern slavery and increased risk of exploitation for those susceptible to being drawn (back) into modern slavery and; the need for repetition of previous work completed by external stakeholders or in some cases, a better alternative.

Practical implications–The pandemic itself causes friction between immediate response solutions and long-term modern slavery goals. Social implications–In response to modern slavery drivers, governments may need to fill governance gaps, to control the power of corporations and to reconsider migration regulation.

Originality/value–The COVID-19 lockdowns and subsequent supply chain disruptions were unforeseen. This paper argues that there are significant negative effects on the developments in modern slavery eradication made in the past 10 years. As businesses struggled for basic survival, the apparel manufacturing sector has been detrimentally affected as upstream labourers are now at higher risk from the increased likelihood of modern slavery violations.


Cole, R., & Shirgholami, Z. (2022). The outlook for modern slavery in the apparel sector in a post-lockdown economy. Supply chain management, 27(4), 526-537.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 6, 2021
Online Publication Date Jun 10, 2021
Publication Date May 6, 2022
Deposit Date Apr 3, 2023
Publicly Available Date May 2, 2023
Journal Supply chain management
Print ISSN 1359-8546
Publisher Emerald
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 27
Issue 4
Pages 526-537
Keywords Sustainability; Garment industry; Suppliers; Supply chain disruptions; Apparel industry; Modern slavery; COVID-19; Social sustainability; Garment; Textiles
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© Emerald Group Publishing Limited 2021. Published by Emerald Group Publishing Limited. Licensed re-use rights only.

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