Modern slavery has advanced around the world in recent years, particularly pushed by the pandemic, with nearly 50 million people forced to work or marry last year, the UN said on Monday 12 September.
The UN wants to eradicate this scourge by 2030, but last year 10 million more people were in modern slavery than global estimates for 2016, according to the latest report released by the International Labor Organization. (ILO) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) – two UN agencies – with the NGO Walk Free Foundation.
The pandemic, an aggravating circumstance
Of the 50 million modern slaves, nearly 27.6 million were forced laborers and 22 million were married against their will. According to the report, women and girls make up more than two-thirds of those forced into marriage and nearly four out of five of those in situations of commercial sexual exploitation. In total, they account for 54% of modern slavery cases. The pandemic, which has caused the deterioration of working conditions and increased indebtedness of workers, has strengthened the sources of modern slavery in all its forms.
In recent years, the report explains, the multiplication of crises – the pandemic but also armed conflicts and climate change – have caused unprecedented upheavals in terms of employment and education, the worsening of extreme poverty, the multiplication of forced migration and dangerous, the explosion of cases of gender-based violence. All of this contributes to increasing the risk of modern slavery. Worldwide, nearly one in 150 people are considered a modern slave. These data – which come mainly from surveys of representative families at the national level – also indicate that situations of modern slavery are by no means transitory, but last for years.
In a statement, the Director General of the ILO, Guy Ryder, judges “shocking that the situation of modern slavery is not improvingand calls on governments but also trade unions, employers’ organizations, civil society and ordinary people to fight against “this fundamental violation of human rights“. The report proposes a number of actions. These include improving and enforcing labor laws and inspections, ending state-imposed forced labor, expanding social protections and strengthening legal protections, including by elevating the legal age of marriage at 18 without exception.
In every country
Women and children remain disproportionately vulnerable. Thus, nearly one in eight forced laborers is a child and more than half of them are victims of commercial sexual exploitation. Migrant workers are three times more likely to be subjected to forced labor than non-migrant adult workers. Antonio Vitorino, IOM Director General, asks that all migrations “be safe, tidy and regular“.”Reducing the vulnerability of migrants to forced labor and human trafficking depends above all on national policies and legal frameworks that respect, protect and implement the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all migrants“, he says.
Modern slavery is present in almost every country in the world. More than half (52%) of all forced labor cases and a quarter of all forced marriages occur in upper-middle or upper-income countries. Forced marriage has increased in recent years, an increase of 6.6 million from 2016 global estimates. The report also reveals that the number of people in forced labor increased by 2.7 million between 2016 and 2021. an increase due solely to forced labor in the private economy, both in commercial sexual exploitation and in other sectors.
Asia and the Pacific are home to more than half of the global total of forced laborers. The report notably highlights that various UN bodies have raised concerns about forced labor in China, including Xinjiang. As such, the report points out that China deposited the instruments of ratification of the ILO’s two core conventions on forced labor on August 12, which “creates new momentum for cooperation with government and social partners to address these issues (and) to combat forced labor“.