50 million people are living in modern slavery

13 Sep 2022

The latest Global Estimates of Modern Slavery reveal that 50 million people are living in modern slavery. Of this group, 28 million are in forced labour and 22 million are trapped in forced marriage.

Of great concern is that 12.5 million children are living in modern slavery, representing 25% of total numbers.

These devastating numbers represent a significant increase of 25% or 10 million people since the last estimates, 5 years ago. Modern slavery is found in every region of the world.

The Global Estimates of Modern Slavery are produced by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Walk Free and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

According to the ILO,

Forced Labour

  • 86% of cases of forced labour are found in the private sector
  • 23% of cases are forced commercial sexual exploitation where almost 4 out of 5 are women and girls.
  • 63% were in other forms of commercial exploitation
  • One in 8 of all people in forced labour are children, and more than half are in commercial sexual exploitation
  • Migrant workers are more than three times likely to be in forced labour than non-migrant workers, indicating their vulnerability as a result of irregular or poorly governed migration, unfair and unethical recruitment practices.

Forced Marriage

  • 22 million people were living in forced marriage, an increase of 6.6 million since 2016.
  • The true incidence of forced marriage is likely to be much greater.

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 regulation 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.”

Causal factors: Compounding crises

According to the Executive Summary of the report,

“The COVID-19 pandemic, armed conflicts and climate change have led to unprecedented disruption to employment and education, increases in extreme poverty and forced and unsafe migration, and an upsurge in reports of gender-based violence. Together, these serve to heighten the risk of all forms of modern slavery. 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.”

Urgent and widespread action is needed now. We must do more to counter this unacceptable increase in numbers and devastating impact on lives.

Ending Modern Slavery

The report proposes the following recommendations that would make a significant impact on ending modern slavery:

  • Improving and enforcing laws and labour inspections;
  • ending state-imposed forced labour;
  • stronger measures to combat forced labour and trafficking in business and supply chains;
  • extending social protection, and strengthening legal protections, including raising the legal age of marriage to 18 without exception.
  • addressing the increased risk of trafficking and forced labour for migrant workers,
  • promoting fair and ethical recruitment,
  • greater support for women, girls and vulnerable individuals.

The report can be downloaded from this page.