50 million people worldwide in modern slavery

Modern Slavery

The latest global estimates of modern slavery show that forced labour, as well as forced marriage, has increased “significantly” in the last five years, according to the International Labour Organisation, Walk Free, and the International Organisation for Migration.

Fifty million people were living in modern slavery in 2021, according to the latest Global Estimates of Modern Slavery. Of these people, 28 million were in forced labour and 22 million were trapped in forced marriage.

The number of people in modern slavery has risen significantly in the last five years. 10 million more people were in modern slavery in 2021 compared to 2016 global estimates. Women and children remain disproportionately vulnerable.

Modern slavery occurs in almost every country in the world and cuts across ethnic, cultural and religious lines. 52% of all forced labour and a quarter of all forced marriages can be found in upper-middle-income or high-income countries.

Most cases of forced labour (86%) are found in the private sector. Forced labour in sectors other than commercial sexual exploitation accounts for 63% of all forced labour, while forced commercial sexual exploitation represents 23% of all forced labour. Almost four out of five of those in forced commercial sexual exploitation are women or girls.

It is shocking that the situation of modern slavery is not improving. Nothing can justify the persistence of this fundamental abuse of human rights.

State-imposed forced labour accounts for 14% of people in forced labour. And almost one in eight of all those in forced labour are children (3.3 million) and more than half of these are in commercial sexual exploitation.

Migrant workers are more than three times more likely to be in forced labour than non-migrant adult workers. Walk Free, the international human rights group focused on the eradication of modern slavery, says that this finding demonstrates how migrants are particularly vulnerable to forced labour and trafficking, whether because of irregular or poorly governed migration, or unfair and unethical recruitment practices.

In 2020, waste management company, Biffa, launched a campaign, in partnership with charity Hope for Justice, to increase awareness of modern slavery in the resource and waste sector. The campaign saw Biffa’s waste collection trucks rebranded to highlight Biffa’s “zero-tolerance to modern slavery” approach.

ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder, said: “It is shocking that the situation of modern slavery is not improving. Nothing can justify the persistence of this fundamental abuse of human rights.

“We know what needs to be done, and we know it can be done. Effective national policies and regulations are fundamental. But governments cannot do this alone.

“International standards provide a sound basis, and an all-hands-on-deck approach is needed. Trade unions, employers’ organizations, civil society and ordinary people all have critical roles to play.”

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