Updated 3 months, 2 weeks ago

There are some 21 million people trapped in forced labour

Forced labour continues to be one of the 21st centuries worst problematics. It is defined as “all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily.”

It can take different forms like debt bondage, trafficking, prostitution, or sweatshop among other forms. Today almost 21 million people are victims to forced labour, with 11.4 million women and girls and 9.5 million men and boys. In the private economy forced labour generates over $150 billion in illegal profits per year.

Following figures from the International Labour Organization (ILO) the most affected region is central and southeastern Asia where there are about 11.7 million people engaged in forced labour. They’re followed by Africa with 3.7 million people and South America with 1.8 million. In Russia and Eastern Europe an estimate of 1.6 million people are victims and in the North America and Europe there are 1.5 million victims. Lastly, the Middle East is believed to have over 600,000 people engaged in forced labour.

According to ILO migrant workers and indigenous people are particularly vulnerable and domestic work, agriculture, construction, manufacturing and entertainment sectors are the most concerned.

Most people (14.2 million) are engaged in forced labour are exploitation. 4.5 million mostly women and girls are subjects of forced sexual exploitation and 2.2 million are victims of state-imposed forced labour.

Even if the number of children engaged in the worst forms of child labour has decreased, it is still necessary for policy makers and governments to work in saving those who remain trapped in exploitation, abuse, and violence remarked the UN when commemorating the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery.

“Those suffering multiple forms of discrimination, including women, children, indigenous peoples, minorities, people of African descent, and persons with disabilities, all too often face extreme vulnerability to exploitation and abuse,” said Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki-moon.

This year marks the 90th anniversary of the signing of the 1926 Slavery Convention and the 60th anniversary of the 1956 Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave trade and Institutions and Practices Similar to Slavery. Also, the ILO’s Forced Labour Protocol, adopted in 2014, entered into force this November. This protocol has strong provisions on remedies and compensation which makes it less profitable to those tempted to use of forced labour.

Eradicating forced labour is also part of the 2030 Agenda and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. They call for “immediate steps to eradicate forced labour, human trafficking and the worst forms of child labour and to end all forms of child labour by 2025.”

“Achieving this goal is not only a matter of prohibiting slavery in law throughout the world but also fighting its root causes, expanding access to justice for victims and increasing provisions for rehabilitation,” added Mr. Ban Ki-moon.

ILO’s experience shows that for achieving this purpose a balanced and integrated approach is required. They believe the fight is closely linked to combat child labour, against discrimination and in favor of freedom of association and collective bargaining.

More so, in November 2017 Argentina will host the Global Conference on Child Labour and Forced Labour which ILO considers to be “an important milestone on the road towards achieving SDG Target 8.7.

"The right to be free of forced labour is both a fundamental labour right, as well as a human right," remarked ILO’s Director General Guy Ryder. 


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