Fifty million people were living under modern slavery by 2021, according to the latest Global estimates of modern slavery. 28 million people are victims of forced labor and 22 million people are in forced marriage.
The number of people subject to modern slavery has increased significantly over the past five years. In 2021, more than 10 million people were victims of modern slavery compared to 2016. Women and children remain particularly vulnerable.
Modern slavery occurs in nearly every country in the world, severing racial, cultural, and religious divisions. More than half (52%) of forced labor and a quarter of forced marriages occur in upper middle income or high income countries.
Most cases of forced labor (86%) occur in the private sector. The five sectors in which forced adult labor is prevalent are services, industry, construction, agriculture (excluding fishing) and domestic work.
Forced labor in sectors other than commercial sexual exploitation accounts for 63% of all forced labor, while forced commercial sexual exploitation accounts for 23% of all forced labor. Nearly four out of five victims of forced labor in the sex industry are women or girls.
14% of modern slaves perform state forced labor.
Nearly one in eight people in forced labor are children (3.3 million). More than half of them are forced to work in the sex industry.
When expressed as a percentage of the population, forced labor is highest in the Arab countries (5.3 per thousand people), followed by Europe and Central Asia (4.4 per thousand), the Americas and Asia and the Pacific (both at 3.5 per thousand), and Africa (2.9 per thousand) .
In 2021, an estimated 22 million people were living in a forced marriage. This indicates an increase of 6.6 million over the 2016 global estimate.
The actual number of forced marriages, particularly among children aged 16 or younger, is likely to be much higher than current estimates: these are based on a narrow definition and do not include all child marriages. Child marriage is considered forced because the child cannot legally consent to the marriage.
Forced marriages are closely related to well-established patriarchal practices and practices and are very contextual. The vast majority of forced marriages (more than 85%) are subject to family stress. Although two thirds of forced marriages (65%) occur in the Asia Pacific region, when the population of the region is taken into account, the prevalence is highest in the Arab countries (4.8 out of every 1,000 people in forced marriages).
Migrants are particularly vulnerable to forced labor
Migrant workers are three times more likely to be in forced labor than adult non-migrant workers. While labor migration has a largely positive impact on individuals, families, communities and societies, this finding shows that migrants are particularly vulnerable to forced labor and human trafficking, either as a result of irregular migration or mismanagement or due to unfair and unethical employment practices.
“It is appalling that the state of modern slavery has not improved. Nothing can justify the continuation of this fundamental violation of human rights,” said Guy Ryder, Director-General of the International Labor Organization. “We know what needs to be done, and we know it can happen. Effective national policies and regulations are essential. But governments cannot do this alone. International standards provide a solid foundation and everyone must take action. Trade unions, employers’ organizations, civil society and ordinary people play a vital role.”
Antonio Vitorino, Director-General of the International Organization for Migration: “This report highlights the urgent need to ensure that all migration processes are safe, orderly and regular. Reducing migrants’ exposure to forced labor and human trafficking depends primarily on national policy and legal frameworks that respect and protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all migrants – and potential migrants – at all stages of the migration process, regardless of their immigration status. Society as a whole must work together to reverse these horrific trends, including through the implementation of the Global Compact on Migration.”
Grace Forrest, Founding Director of Walk Free: “Modern slavery is the opposite of sustainable development. However, it will remain an important phenomenon in our global economy in 2022. It is a man-made problem linked to historical slavery and persistent structural inequality. In times of serious crisis, the will is Genuine politics is the key to ending these human rights violations.”
Ending modern slavery
The report proposes a number of initiatives that, when implemented together and quickly, would make significant progress toward ending modern slavery. It is about improving and enforcing legislation and labor inspection departments; ending forced labor imposed by the state; Stronger measures to combat forced labor and human trafficking in companies and supply chains; Extension of social protection and strengthening of legal protection, including raising the legal age of marriage to 18 years without exception. Other measures include addressing the increased risk of trafficking and forced labor of migrant workers, promoting fair and ethical recruitment, and increasing support for women, girls and the vulnerable.