Fifty million people trapped in modern slavery

More than 50 million people are trapped in modern slavery, that’s according to latest figures from a report co-authored by the International Labour Organization (ILO), Walk Free, and International Organization for Migration (IOM).

The report, Global Estimates of Modern Slavery, Forced Labour and Forced Marriage, shows a sharp increase in the number of people around the world trapped in exploitation, forced labour and forced marriage since figures were last reported in 2016.

In 2021, figures from surveys conducted around the world showed that forced labour accounts for 27.6 million of those in modern slavery, and forced marriage for 22 million.

This equates to nearly one in every 150 people in the world.

The rise in people trapped in exploitation reflects a rise in world instability. The COVID-19 pandemic left millions of people in poverty, disrupted education and employment, and left many people exposed to poor and exploitative employment practices.

Conflict, war and climate change have also led to an increase in migration, loss of community, loss of land and income, and forced many people into extreme poverty. Those who were already vulnerable to exploitation and violence, such as people on the margins of society, refugees, and women and girls in poverty or conflict zones, have also seen an increase in forced marriage, child marriage, and gender based violence and sexual exploitation.

As is usually the case, it is those who are already in situations of greatest vulnerability – including the poor and socially excluded, workers in the informal economy, irregular or otherwise unprotected migrant workers, and people subject to discrimination – who are most affected. (Report quote)

The report estimates that 27.6 million people are in situations of forced labour on any given day around the world, with women and girls making up 11.8 million of the total. An estimated 6.3 million people are in situations of forced commercial sexual exploitation, a figure which includes 1.7 million children. Nearly four out of every five of those trapped in forced commercial exploitation are girls or women.

People in forced labour exploitation are subjected to multiple forms of coercion to compel them to work against their will. The systematic and deliberate withholding of wages, used by abusive employers to compel workers to stay in a job out of fear of losing accrued earnings, is the most common form of coercion. This is followed by abuse of vulnerability through threat of dismissal. More severe forms of coercion, including forced confinement, physical and sexual violence, and the deprivation of basic needs, are less common but by no means negligible.

Children can be subjected to severe forms of coercion and abuse, including abduction, drugging, being held in captivity, deception, and manipulation of debt. Some of the worst abuses occur in situations of armed conflict. (Report quote)

COVID-19 has exacerbated the underlying drivers of all forms of modern slavery, including forced marriage, which often is linked to economic hardship. Widespread socio-economic instability due to the pandemic led to increased global unemployment, increased indebtedness, and an increase in extreme global poverty for the first time in two decades.

Read the report here: https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/@ed_norm/@ipec/documents/publication/wcms_854733.pdf