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Home / Tim Worstall /There’s modern slavery and then there’s modern slavery

There’s modern slavery and then there’s modern slavery

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We do not pretend or imply that conditions on Brazilian cattle farms are wondrous nor even desirable. We would though like to point out that £8 a day isn’t slavery.Brazilian beef farms ‘used workers kept in conditions similar to slavery’ Workers on farms supplying world’s biggest meat firms allegedly paid £8 a day and housed in shacks with no toilets or running waterThe point is repeated later in the piece:In August 2019, government inspectors found nine unregistered workers clearing pasture on the Copacabana farm in Mato Grosso do Sul state were being paid £8 a day, the report said. They lived in improvised shacks made of logs, plastic, palm fronds and corrugated iron without toilets, kitchens or running water.Here’s the thing. The average Brazilian wage is about 2,500 reals a month. The

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We do not pretend or imply that conditions on Brazilian cattle farms are wondrous nor even desirable. We would though like to point out that £8 a day isn’t slavery.

Brazilian beef farms ‘used workers kept in conditions similar to slavery’

Workers on farms supplying world’s biggest meat firms allegedly paid £8 a day and housed in shacks with no toilets or running water

The point is repeated later in the piece:

In August 2019, government inspectors found nine unregistered workers clearing pasture on the Copacabana farm in Mato Grosso do Sul state were being paid £8 a day, the report said. They lived in improvised shacks made of logs, plastic, palm fronds and corrugated iron without toilets, kitchens or running water.

Here’s the thing. The average Brazilian wage is about 2,500 reals a month. The minimum wage is 1,045 a month. £8 a day is, for a 22 day working month, £176 a month, at current exchange rates that’s 1,272 reals a month.

It is entirely true that £8 a day isn’t something that anyone in this country is going to get out of bed for. But that’s because we’re all lucky, lucky to be born into an already rich country. As Branco Milanovic is known to point out, the largest single determinant of your lifetime income is which country were you born into? Brazil is, still, a markedly poorer country. Thus wages are lower.

Considering solely the wages being discussed here, for that’s the point we wish to make, paying above the local minimum wage is not evidence of slavery, whether we try to use the modern definition of slavery or not. It is evidence of the poverty of the surrounding economy.

At which point we can suggest a solution. The way to increase the incomes of the global poor is to buy products made by poor people in poor places. Now that Britain has the freedom to actually do this perhaps we should organise matters so that more of us can, tariff free, buy more Brazilian beef? That would make both us and those workers better off which sounds like a nice outcome of a plan, doesn’t it?

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Tim Worstall
Tim Worstall is a British-born writer and Senior Fellow of the Adam Smith Institute. Worstall is a regular contributor to Forbes and the Register. He has also written for the Guardian, the New York Times, PandoDaily, the Daily Telegraph blogs, the Times, and The Wall Street Journal. In 2010 his blog was listed as one of the top 100 UK political blogs by Total Politics.

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