50 million people lived in ''modern slavery'' last year: ILO

In its latest report, the Geneva-based International Labour Organization (ILO) said that 50 million people were living in modern slavery in 2021

50 million people lived in ''modern slavery'' last year: ILO
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NH Web Desk

In its latest report, the Geneva-based International Labour Organization (ILO) said that 50 million people were living in modern slavery in 2021.

ILO, along with the UN's International Organisation for Migration and the Walk Free foundation - a rights group that focuses on modern slavery - reported that 28 million people were in forced labour and 22 in forced marriages at the end of 2021.

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, says the report.

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

Regarding forced labour, most cases (86 per cent) are found in the private sector.

According to the report, forced labour in sectors other than commercial sexual exploitation accounts for 63 per cent of all forced labour, while forced commercial sexual exploitation represents 23 per cent of all forced labour.


Almost four out of five of those in forced commercial sexual exploitation are women or girls.

State-imposed forced labour accounts for 14 per cent of people in forced labour.

Almost one in eight of all those in forced labour are children (3.3 million). More than half of these are in commercial sexual exploitation.

The report says that an estimated 22 million people were living in forced marriage on any given day in 2021 -- an increase of 6.6 million since the 2016 global estimates.

Grace Forrest, founding director of Walk Free, said in an Associated Press interview in New York that the increase is about equal to the population of Greece.

Based on available data, ILO and partners found increases in child and forced marriages in countries like Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Congo, Egypt, India, Uganda and Yemen. But the report said wealthier countries were not immune to the problem, with nearly one-in-four forced marriages taking place in high or upper middle-income countries.

Crises including the coronavirus pandemic, climate change and armed conflict have underpinned rises in extreme poverty, unsafe migration, and gender-based violence in recent years, raising the risk of all forms of modern slavery, it said.


More than 2/3 of all forced marriages were found in the Asia-Pacific region the world's most populous region but the highest number per capita came in Arab countries where nearly 5 in 1,000 people were in forced marriages.

Forced marriage, the report said, is closely tied to long-established patriarchal attitudes and practices while 85 per cent of cases were driven by family pressure. Regarding forced labour, about one in eight of those affected were children and half of those in commercial sexual exploitation.

(Modern slavery) is a man-made problem, connected to both historical slavery and persisting structural inequality, Walk Free's Forrest said in a statement, as the ILO chief urged a broader effort to fight it.

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

Antonio Vitorino, IOM Director-General, said: "This report underscores the urgency of ensuring that all migration is safe, orderly, and regular. Reducing the vulnerability of migrants to forced labour and trafficking in persons depends first and foremost on national policy and legal frameworks that respect, protect, and fulfil the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all migrants, and potential migrants, at all stages of the migration process, regardless of their migration status."

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