In recent months, the world has been increasingly concerned about China’s internment of its Muslim Uyghur minority in the western region of Xinjiang. On September 15, the EU announced its intention to ban goods produced with forced labour. The U.S., Canada and the U.K. were forerunners in this regard by taking steps to ban goods made with forced labor through import bans.
Sheffield Hallam University’s report “In Broad Daylight: Uyghur Forced Labour and Global Solar Supply Chains” shows how forced labour in the Uyghur region has ripple effects in global solar supply chains.
While there are several goods that are being produced as a result of this forced labour regime, In Broad Daylight paper focuses specifically on the solar energy industry. It concludes that the solar industry is particularly vulnerable to forced labour in the Uyghur Region due to the following reasons:
- 95% of solar modules rely on one primary material – solar-grade polysilicon.
- Polysilicon manufacturers in the Uyghur Region account for approximately 45% of the world’s solar-grade polysilicon supply.
- All polysilicon manufacturers in the Uyghur Region have reported their participation in labour transfer programmes and/or are supplied by raw materials companies that have.
- In 2020, China produced an additional 30% of the world’s polysilicon on top of that produced in the Uyghur Region, a significant proportion of which may be affected by forced labour in the Uyghur Region as well.