As per the 2017 Global Estimates of modern slavery released by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the Walk Free Foundation (WFF) on Tuesday, an estimated 40.3 million people were victims of slavery worldwide. Women accounted for 71% (29 million), while children constituted 25% (10 million) of modern slaves.
Of the 40.3 million trapped in slavery, 25 million were in forced labour and 15 million in forced marriage. Of the 25 million, 16 million were exploited by the private sector, 4.8 million were in forced sexual exploitation, and 4.1 million were in forced labour imposed by state authorities.
Debt bondage was responsible for 50% of all forced labour in the private sector. This proportion rose to 70% for adults forced to work in agriculture, domestic work, or manufacturing. More women (9.2 million, or 57.6%) than men (6.8 million, or 42.4%) were affected by privately imposed forced labour.
The largest share of adults who were in forced labour were domestic workers (24%), followed by the construction sector (18%), manufacturing (15%), and agriculture and fishing (11%).
Women represented 99% of the victims of forced labour in the commercial sex industry, and 84% of the victims of forced marriages. As per the Global Slavery Index 2016, India had the world’s largest number of modern slaves, at 18.3 million, with 1.4% of the population living in slavery-like conditions.
Also, 151.6 million children aged 5 to 17 were engaged in child labour in 2016. Nearly 50% (72.5 million) were involved in hazardous work. While 70.9% of child labour was concentrated in agriculture, 11.9% worked in industry. The highest number (72.1 million) was in Africa, followed by Asia and the Pacific (62 million).
Modern slavery was most prevalent in Africa (7.6 per 1,000 people), followed by Asia and the Pacific (6.1 per 1,000) and then Europe and Central Asia (3.9 per 1,000). Forced labour was most prevalent in Asia and the Pacific (4 per 1,000 people), followed by Europe and Central Asia (3.6 per 1,000), and then Africa (2.8 per 1,000).
The latest figures are expected to aid in policy-making aimed at achieving Target 8.7 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which calls for effective measures to end forced labour, modern slavery, human trafficking, and child labour in all its forms.
“The world won’t be in a position to achieve the SDGs unless we dramatically increase our efforts to fight these scourges. The new global estimates can help shape and develop interventions to prevent both forced labour and child labour,” said Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General.
According to the ILO-WFF report, the term ‘modern slavery’ covers “a set of specific legal concepts including forced labour, debt bondage, forced marriage, other slavery and slavery-like practices, and human trafficking.” Though not defined in law, “essentially, it refers to situations of exploitation that a person cannot refuse or leave because of threats, violence, coercion, deception, and/or abuse of power.”