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‘Fundamentally evil’: Modern slavery reaps billions in illegal profits

These are stories Report on Business is following Tuesday, May 20, 2014.

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ILO seeks action
"Modern slavery" of 21 million people is generating huge illegal profits for those behind it, a new report finds.

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Some $150-billion (U.S.) a year is three times more than believed, the International Labour Organization said today. The number of people is based on 2012 numbers.

"This new report takes our understanding of trafficking, forced labour and modern slavery to a new level," said Guy Ryder, the chief of the Geneva-based UN group.

"Our new report adds new urgency to our efforts to eradicate this fundamentally evil, but hugely profitable practice as soon as possible," he added.

The bulk of those profits, or $99-billion, is from sexual exploitation, according to the ILO report, while the rest is from "forced economic exploitation" that includes domestic and agricultural work.

Breaking that down further, construction, manufacturing, mining and utilities account for $34-billion, and agriculture $9-billion, while $8-billion comes from "private households by not paying or underpaying domestic workers held in forced labour."

By region, Asia-Pacific accounts for the largest in total money terms, at almost $52-billion, followed by developed economies and the European Union at almost $47-billion.

But by victim, the latter is far and away the biggest, at almost $35,000 per person.

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"If we want to make a significant change in the lives of the 21 million men, women and children in forced labour, we need to take concrete and immediate action," Mr. Ryder, the group's director-general, said in a statement.

"That means working with governments to strengthen law, policy and enforcement, with employers to strengthen their due diligence against forced labour, including in their supply chains, and with trade unions to represent and empower those at risk."

Target Canada president leaves
Target Corp. is replacing the chief of its ailing Canadian operation.

The U.S. discount chain said today Canadian president Tony Fisher is leaving, to be succeeded by Mark Schindele, the senior vice-president of merchandising operations, The Globe and Mail's Bertrand Marotte and Marina Strauss report.

His departure follows that of Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel, who left in the wake of a huge data breach and weak Canadian launch.

Target stumbled in its Canadian expansion, losing more than some analysts had projected, though some believe it will begin to turn a profit here next year.

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Target also plans to name a non-executive chairman in Canada, a newly created advisory role "to provide counsel and support to the president of Target Canada to ensure all strategies and tactics align with the Canadian marketplace."

"One of our key priorities is improving performance in Canada more rapidly and we believe it is important to be aggressive," said Target Corp. interim president and chief executive officer John Mulligan.

China denies hacking
China denies all state-sponsored hacking for trade secrets and is lashing out at the United States as a cybersecurity "hypocrite."

The U.S. has "deliberately fabricated the so-called facts to file indictment against five Chinese military officials," China's foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said today. He accused the U.S. of damaging already-fragile relations between Beijing and Washington, as a spat over new U.S. cyberspying charges provokes harsh words – and threats of retaliation, our Beijing correspondent Nathan VanderKlippe and New York correspondent Joanna Slater report.

"We will take further action in accordance with the development of the situation," Mr. Hong said, after Beijing on Monday summoned the U.S. Ambassador to China to voice its complaints. China also pulled out of a joint cybersecurity working group, saying the U.S. must "correct its mistake and withdraw its indictment."

The Chinese anger was provoked by U.S. cyberspying charges filed Monday against five Chinese officers, who used aliases such as UglyGorilla, KandyGoo and WinXYHappy and commandeered innocuous-sounding domain names such as and

In reality, prosecutors allege, they were members of the Chinese army on a mission: To infiltrate some of the largest companies in the U.S. and steal confidential information from them.

Please listen carefully to all the options
"Frustration" often seems to go hand in hand with "customer support" – everyone seems to have a story when the topic comes up - but what many Canadians may not realize is that they have it better than just about anyone.

Canada ties with Norway for the No. 2 spot among 23 countries in the most recent study of customer satisfaction by a U.S. firm, and No. 1 when averaged over the longer-term last year.

The study is a quarterly report by Zendesk Inc. that tracks customer service tickets from more than 16,000 companies in 125 countries.

It  includes only countries with a minimum of 10,000 responses.

If your experience is anything like mine, customer support goes something like this: Listen carefully to all the options, then press 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 for more options, then find the right option in what by now is a desperate attempt to reach a human, only to get the wrong human, who transfers you to a recorded voice who really values your business, so don't hang up, because you're the sixth person in line. (Starting off with 0 is rarely an option.)

Be that as it may, Canadians are a generally satisfied bunch, according to Zendesk, moving up in the first-quarter report to 90-per-cent customer satisfaction, from 89 per cent in the final three months of last year.

Norway, also with 90 per cent, moved down a notch. And New Zealand, which didn't qualify last time around, came in at 92 per cent.

Following the top three were Australia, Denmark, Mexico, Israel, United Arab Emirates, Brazil and Russia to round out the top 10.

The next five included Sweden, Britain, Chile, Netherlands and the United States.

Canada ranked No. 1, at 90.3 per cent, over a longer-term, since the Zendesk "benchmark" report began in the second quarter of 2013 through to the end of last year.

Customer satisfaction among all the countries measured moved up by one percentage point in the first quarter, to 81 per cent.

"This," said Zendesk, "marks a rebound from a downturn in customer satisfaction during the busy holiday season of the fourth quarter."

Zendesk vice-president Sam Boonin told MarketWatch that, while you can't pinpoint a specific reason, Canadian businesses are good at answering service calls in a timely fashion.

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