International Day for the Abolition of Slavery

Rebecca Wong
December 2, 2023

December 2 marks the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, commemorating the United Nations’ commitment to eliminating trafficking in persons, sexual exploitation, child labor, and forced marriage.

Slavery has persisted in human history as long as power asymmetry has been prevalent, yet it has evolved and transfigured itself according to cultural norms, legal definitions, and economic systems. In 2023, forced labor is still found in formal sector workplaces where a range of exploitative practices distorts normal employment standards.

The International Labor Organization‘s (ILO) most recent report in 2021 estimates that 27.6 million people experience forced labor, a number that has increased in recent years due to compounding crises including COVID-19, climate change, and armed conflicts. These ripples in the social fabric have contributed to disruptions in employment, education, housing, and health, increasing exposure to displacement and unsafe migration, poverty, and gender-based violence.

The requisite response to such a crisis demands a multifaceted approach driven by compliance with labor laws, changes in business culture, cross-sector collaboration, corporate engagement, and grassroots organizing, with both upstream and downstream solutions.

At Working Capital Fund, we are one node in this ecosystem. We are a venture capital firm spurring technological innovation to transform supply chains and empower a dignified, sustainable workforce.

We invest in tech startups that are making great strides in the social impact space, including in identifying, remedying, and preventing forced labor. For example:

  • Honest Jobs invests in fair recruitment and placement service startups for migrant workers in Asia to address debt bondage in the recruitment process, a primary driver of forced labor.
  • Quizrr launched a global initiative to eradicate forced labor in supply chains through Information and training. the interactive digital training tool promotes agency by educating workers, managers, and labor agents on their rights and responsibilities.
  • Altana Technologies uses its proprietary Atlas to map the ecosystem of businesses involved with forced labor, revealing nearly 1 million entities tied to forced labor in China. Their recent partnership with Dataminr will only increase the timeliness and comprehensiveness of the data available.
  • Versed AI only takes seconds to map entire supply chains for forced labor risks in high-risk regions and sectors, providing a level of insight previously inaccessible.
  • Ulula’s grievance mechanism resulted in 2,000 grievances collected, enabling a 90%+ resolution rate, which led to millions in reimbursement of recruitment fees.

Our role is to provide growth capital to promising ventures that have impact at their core. When they scale, they have the potential to address the root causes of forced labor in vast swaths of supply chains where other solutions have yet to succeed.


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