50 million reportedly in modern slavery

This week the International Labour Organization (ILO), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and Walk Free released their report on the latest Global Estimates of Modern Slavery, Forced Labour and Forced Marriage. The estimates are largely based on household surveys as well as data provided by counter trafficking agencies and the IOM.

As the report notes, 50 million translates to almost one in every 150 people in the world. The figure is further broken down into 27.6 million in forced labor and 22 million forced into marriage.

What’s behind the number?

Media houses worldwide have picked up the story sharing the alarming figure but the most pertinent take aways from the report are the key findings including the following:

  • The five sectors accounting for 87% of total adult forced labor are services (excluding domestic work), manufacturing, construction, agriculture (excluding fishing), and domestic work
  • Most forced labor cases in the private economy (63%) occurs in sectors other than commercial sexual exploitation
  • The risk of forced labor for migrant workers is three times higher than for other workers
  • 9 million people are in state-imposed forced labor at any point in time – over half of which are cases involving some form of prison labor
  • The risk of forced marriage has increased due to socioeconomic crises, family pressure, climate change, discrimination and gender inequality

The Guardian reports,

The ILO, IOM and Walk Free set out a number of recommended actions to reduce the prevalence of modern slavery, including improving labor laws and inspections, ending state-imposed forced labor, stronger measured to stop trafficking and slavery in supply chains, and raising the legal age of marriage to 18 without exception.

Systemic solutions are urgently needed

The rise in numbers of people experiencing forced labor and modern slavery indicates the urgent need for governments to implement systemic solutions that address the key drivers of exploitation.

The Freedom United community has been pushing campaigns calling for and end to prison slavery, state sanctioned forced labor in China and forced marriage. The report also recommends fair and ethical recruitment practices for foreign laborers which is a critical policy for California temporary migrant workers.

Another key recommendation from the report: addressing migrants’ vulnerability to forced labor which we’ve been calling on governments to do, especially the United Kingdom’s, for years.

Overall, the report provides a great overview of the current scope and trends of modern slavery around the world with just one or two exceptions. For example, the report on Qatar’s progress on migrant workers’ rights makes no mention of the recent deportation of migrant workers and the European Union’s role in contributing to forced labor in Libya goes unreported.

ILO director general, Guy Ryder, told the Guardian, “We know what needs to be done, and we know it can be done.” He said everyone has a critical role to play including the public and he’s not wrong. Join a campaign today and help us advance the effort to end modern slavery once and for all.

What did you think of the new estimates? Tell us in the comments below.

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