50 million people stuck in ‘modern slavery’ – UN
Fifty million people worldwide have been trapped in forced labor or forced marriage, the UN said on Monday, warning that their ranks have increased dramatically in recent years.
According to a new report, the United Nations has set itself the goal of eradicating all forms of modern slavery by 2030, but instead the number of people trapped in forced labor or forced marriages increased by 10 million between 2016 and 2021.
A study conducted by the UN labor and migration agencies together with the Walk Free Foundation found that at the end of last year, 28 million people were in forced labor, while 22 million people lived in the marriage to which they were forced.
That means nearly one in every 150 people in the world has fallen into modern forms of slavery, the report said.
“It is shocking that the situation of modern slavery is not improving,” Guy Ryder, head of the International Labor Organization (ILO), said in a statement.
“Nothing can justify the persistence of this fundamental violation of human rights.”
The Covid-19 pandemic, which has worsened conditions and inflated debt levels for many workers, has increased the risk, the report said.
Combined with the effects of climate change and armed conflict, it has contributed to “unprecedented disruption to employment and education, increased extreme poverty and forced and dangerous migration,” exacerbating the threat, the report said.
This is a long-term problem, the report warns, with estimates indicating that forced labor can last for years, and forced marriage is often a “life sentence.”
Women and children are by far the most vulnerable.
Children account for one in five people in forced labor, with more than half of them stuck in commercial sexual exploitation, the report said.
Meanwhile, migrant workers are more than three times more likely to be in forced labor than non-migrant adult workers, he showed.
“This report underscores the urgency of ensuring that all migration is safe, orderly and regular,” Antonio Vitorino, head of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said in a statement.
Modern slavery is present in almost every country in the world, with more than half of the cases of forced labor and a quarter of forced marriages in upper-middle-income or high-income countries.
The report found that the number of people — mostly women and girls — stuck in forced marriages has increased by 6.6 million since the last global estimates in 2016.
The number of people in forced labor during the same period increased by 2.7 million.
The increase was entirely caused by an increase in forced labor in the private economy, including forced commercial sexual exploitation.
But the report also says that 14 percent of those working in forced labor have done work imposed by public authorities, expressing concern about the abuse of compulsory prison labor in a number of countries, including the United States.
He also pointed to serious concerns expressed by the UN human rights office about “credible reports of forced labor in extremely harsh conditions” in North Korea.
And she highlighted the situation in China, where several UN agencies have warned of possible forced labor, including in the Xinjiang region, where Beijing is accused of detaining more than one million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities.
Beijing has vehemently rejected such allegations, arguing that it runs vocational training centers to help eradicate extremism.
A report published by former UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet on August 31 said more information was needed, but labor schemes in the region proved discriminatory and “included elements of coercion.”
In a Monday report, China last month welcomed the ratification of the ILO Convention on Forced Labor, creating “a renewed impetus for cooperation with the government and social partners to address these issues (and) to combat forced labor.”