Alarming Rise in Global Slavery

Slavery Estimates 2022

A new document produced by the International Labour Organization (ILO), Walk Free and the International Office for Migration (IOM) highlights an alarming increase in the number of people experiencing forced labour and forced marriage on any one day. Global Estimates of Modern Slavery: Forced Labour and Forced Marriage puts this figure at just on 50 million or 1 person in every 150 globally. This represents a 9.3 million increase in the period 2016-2021. Children account for 12 million of those in modern slavery.

Factors that have contributed to the increase in forced labour and forced marriage include the COVID-19 pandemic, armed conflicts, and climate change. Theys have disrupted employment and education, led to increases in extreme poverty and forced and unsafe migra­tion as well as an upsurge in reports of gender-based violence, thus heightening the risk of all forms of modern slavery.

The report notes the following:

  • an increase of 2.7 million in the number people in forced labour between 2016 and 2021
  • People in forced labour exploitation are subjected to multiple forms of coercion, e.g., withholding of wages to compel workers to stay in a job out of fear of losing accrued earnings
  • An estimated 6.3 million people are in situations of forced commercial sexual exploitation at any point in time.
  • 3.3 million children are in situations of forced labour, ac­counting for about 12 per cent of all those in forced labour.
  • The forced labour of children occurs across wide array of economic sec­tors and industries.
  • Forced marriage takes place in every region of the world.
  • Over two thirds of forced marriages are female
  • Family members are responsible for the vast majority of forced marriages.

A number of policy priorities for addressing modern slavery are provided in the report. In particular there is a need to provide social protection to all workers and their families, promote fair and ethical recruitment, provide access to protection and remedy for people freed from forced labour and forced marriage, ensure adequate civil and criminal protection in national legislation and address the socio-cultural norms and structures that lead to forced marriage. Download a copy of the report here.