Our research

CReMS approaches modern slavery as a social ill arising when employers systematically violate the rights of workers made vulnerable by their legal and social status, such as migrant labourers. This can be a consequence of strategic decision-making by domestic or internationalised firms. In collaboration with researchers in other disciplines, our intention is to expose the nature and extent of modern slavery to ensure it plays no further role in the global economy.

What is modern slavery?

Modern slavery comprises a continuum of practices ranging from labour exploitation through to forced labour and outright slavery at the extreme. It is a condition in which workers are kept in an abusive employment relationship, and is a profoundly offensive characteristic of the contemporary global economy. Modern slavery remains widespread, is present in both developed and developing nations, in multiple industries and sectors, and continues despite – or, perhaps, because – internationalised firms from liberal democracies playing a controlling role in the majority of global supply chains.

From the perspective of international business, modern slavery matters because decisions made by its practitioners, with respect to the location and control of production, distribution, and marketing, create incentives for employers to either respect or violate the rights of their workers. Beyond the market, corporations also play a largely uncharted role in developing labour standards, working alongside policymakers and enforcers at different governing levels to determine the duties of employers around the world.

In its response to modern slavery, New Zealand is falling behind countries like Australia and the UK, both at home and in the supply chains of businesses. Our research has challenged the Government to take the necessary steps to consider a modern slavery Act and further, to address why migrant worker exploitation has become embedded in certain industries.

Below are some videos documenting the extent of modern slavery worldwide:


  • Stringer, C. & Michailova, S. Why modern slavery thrives in multinational corporations' global value chains. Highly commended paper award, Emerald Literati Network Awards for Excellence 2019.
  • Michailova, S. & Stringer, C. 2018. Modern slavery as an international business: An old institutionalism perspective. Best paper award, Australia New Zealand Academy of International Business annual conference, Brisbane, Australia.  


Published work

  • Michailova, S., Stringer, C. & Mezias, J. 2020. Commentary and Introduction - Studying modern slavery: It is time for IB scholarship to contribute. AIB Insights, 20(2).
  • Burmester, B., Michailova, S. & Stringer, C. 2019. Modern slavery and International Business scholarship: The governance nexus. critical perspectives on international business, 15(2/3): 139-157.
  • Michailova, S. & Stringer, C. 2018. Tackling the ugliest phenomenon of our times, modern slavery: An invitation to the IB scholarly community. AIB Insights, 18(2): 7-10.
  • Stringer, C. & Michailova, S. 2018. Why modern slavery thrives in multinational corporations' global value chains, Multinational Business Review, 26(3): 194-206
  • Michailova, S. 2020. Is Irresponsible Business Immune to COVID-19? The Case of Modern Slavery. In COVID-19 and International Business (pp. 257-263). Routledge.


Work in progress

CReMS is currently developing research projects relating to the impact of Covid-19 on temporary migrant workers, the exploitation of temporary migrant workers in New Zealand liquor retail, and the potential for a Modern Slavery Act for New Zealand.

Book contract

Michailova, S., Stringer, C. & Burmester, B. The International Business of Modern Slavery, under contract with Cambridge University Press. Expected completion date: December 2022.

Online resources