Modern Slavery

What is modern-day slavery?

About 150 years after most countries banned slavery – Brazil was the last to abolish its participation in the transatlantic slave trade, in 1888 – millions of men, women and children are still enslaved. Contemporary slavery takes many forms, from women forced into prostitution, to child slavery in agriculture supply chains or whole families working for nothing to pay off generational debts. Slavery thrives on every continent and in almost every country. Forced labour, people trafficking, debt bondage and child marriage are all forms of modern-day slavery that affect the world’s most vulnerable people.

How many people are enslaved across the world?

The UN’s International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that about 21 million people are in forced labour at any point in time. The ILO says this estimate includes trafficking and other forms of modern slavery. They calculate that 90% of the 21 million are exploited by individuals or companies, while 10% are forced to work by the state, rebel military groups, or in prisons under conditions that violate ILO standards. Sexual exploitation accounts for 22% of slaves.

Where does slavery exist?

Slavery exists in one form or another in every country. Asia accounts for more than half of the ILO’s 21 million estimate. In terms of percentage of population, central and south-east Europe has the highest prevalence of forced labour, followed by Africa, the Middle East, Asia Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Who is profiting?

In 2005, the ILO estimated that illegal profits from forced labour amounted to more than $44bn. The UN’s global initiative to fight trafficking says people trafficking is the third-largest global criminal industry (pdf) behind drugs and arms trafficking. The ILO estimates that people in forced labour lose at least $21bn each year in unpaid wages and recruitment fees. Slavery also exists within global supply chains, generating huge profits for those who control this industry in free labour.

 

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