50 Million people in ‘modern slavery’ according new global estimates

new Global Estimates of Modern Slavery: Forced Labour and Forced Marriage

The new Global Estimates of Modern Slavery: Forced Labour and Forced Marriage from the ILO, Walk Free and the IOM published on 12 September, calculate that currently 50 million people are in a situation of modern slavery globally and that the number has risen by ten million in five years. If the estimations are correct, urgent action is indeed needed, as that would mean that currently we identify and support with the EU, less than 1 percent of those persons in severe exploitation, states La Strada International.

The new global estimates reveal that approximately 28 million (27.6) persons are trapped in forced labour and 22 million in forced marriage. The report defines forced marriage and forced labour as situations of exploitation that a person cannot refuse or cannot leave because of threats, violence, deception, abuse of power or other forms of coercion. Human trafficking situations fall under the forced labour estimates.

The five sectors accounting for the majority of total adult forced labour (87 per cent) are according the report: services (excluding domestic work), manufacturing, construction, agriculture (excluding fishing), and domestic work. Other sectors form smaller shares but nonetheless still account for hundreds of thousands of people. These include adult workers who are forced to dig for minerals or perform other mining and quarrying work, fishers who are trapped in forced labour aboard fishing vessels, people forced to beg on the street, and people forced into illicit activities.

According the report 3 million children are in situations of forced labour; over half of them are in commercial sexual exploitation. Domestic work, agriculture, and manufacturing are among the many other sectors where children in forced labour are found. Migrant workers are estimated three times more likely to be in forced labour than other workers.  On this, the authors state: “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 un-protected migrant workers, and people subject to discrimination – who are most affected”.

The global estimations translate to nearly one of every 150 people to be in a severe exploitative situation in the world; for the region Europe and Central Asia it is estimated that 4,1 million persons are in a situation of forced labour in Europe and Central Asia. For the EU (447.7 million inhabitants) that would mean that nearly 3 million persons (2.98 million) would be in a situation of ‘modern slavery’ including 1,68 million in forced labour situations, while annually ‘only’ around 10.000 victims of human trafficking are identified and reported according Eurostat, which means less than 1% (16.800).

The report concludes: “It is urgent that the global community gathers the will and resources to over-come these obstacles and get progress towards ending modern slavery back on track. Promises and statements of good intent are not enough. While the principal responsibility for change lies with national governments, a whole of society approach is needed – the social partners, participants in the social and solidarity economy, businesses, investors, survivor groups, civil society, and an array of other actors have critical roles to play”. La Strada International supports the authors’ urgent call for action, as well as the recommendations of the report, including to ensure protection and access to remedy including compensation for victims of forced labour and human trafficking; adequate enforcement of legislation and enhancement of legal investigations and prosecution, as well as the need to address migrants’ vulnerability for force labour, next to fair and ethical recruitment of workers, enabling workers to associate and bargain collectively, and the strengthening of public labour inspectorates.