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Modern Slavery Facts

  • £193 billion made each year from modern slavery, that’s over £5,500 every second[1]
  • Women and girls make up 54% of all victims worldwide, and are 78% of victims of forced commercial sexual exploitation[2]
  • Many UK businesses have slavery in their supply chains without even knowing it[3]
  • Victims are told that police are corrupt, and that seeking help leads to being deported[4]
  • There were 16,938 potential cases identified and referred in the UK last year, plus 4,000 more cases where the potential victim did not consent to go through the official process[5]
  • Traffickers make threats against victims’ families, using fear and shame as weapons[6]
  • Human trafficking and people smuggling are different things[7]

Types of exploitation

Sexual exploitation

Vulnerable people, overwhelmingly women and girls, are tricked or forced into the sex trade. It often begins with a promise of good work in hospitality or modelling, or a ‘boyfriend’ is responsible.

Forced labour

This is when a person has no choice or control over their work, with the money they earn taken by someone else, who often also controls where they live and even who they can speak with.

Domestic servitude

A less common type of modern slavery, when a person is forced to cook, clean or do childcare for little or no pay, often living in the home with the ’employer’ and not allowed to live their own life.

Criminal exploitation

Victims are forced to grow or transport drugs, made to shoplift or pickpocket, are forced to beg on the streets, or used for fraud. The threat of being reported becomes another method of control.

Forced marriage

Nearly 22 million people are thought to have been forced into a marriage without consent, nearly all of them women and girls, often to an older man in another region or country.

Source: A Typology of Modern Slavery Offences in the UK (Home Office, 2017), which further breaks these categories down into 17 total types

How many people are in modern slavery?

It is a hidden crime, but the best estimates suggest there are 49.6 million people[8] in modern slavery of which:

  • 19.9 million people in forced labour in private or state-run companies, or criminal exploitation
  • 1.4 million people experiencing domestic servitude in private homes
  • 6.3 million people in forced sexual exploitation (including 1.7 million children)
  • 21.9 million people in a forced marriage to which they had not consented

There are tens of thousands of victims in the UK. One estimate suggests the number of people in modern slavery in the UK is up to 122,000.[9]

How do traffickers keep their victims under control?

People are tricked or forced into exploitation and kept there through violence, fraud or coercion, and often end up living and working in abominable conditions.

Some are beaten and abused; others have threats made against their families in their home countries. Many are forced into fraudulent ‘debt bondage’, with their wages kept by a trafficker to pay non-existent bills for their travel, accommodation or food. They are told they will be deported if they go to the authorities.

Often, the trafficker takes control of a victim’s identity documents (e.g. passport). They accompany them to open a bank account, then take control of its associated bank card and correspondence (this functions both as a simple way for the trafficker to control the victim’s earnings, and a way for them to exert dominance and control by offering occasional small sums of money from what should be the victim’s own wages).

Traffickers usually focus on those easiest to exploit, which tends to be people with fewer resources or existing vulnerabilities.

Source: Hope for Justice case analysis

Risk factors for trafficking

Anyone from any walk of life can be targeted and can end up as a victim of modern slavery. But people experiencing any of the following things can be at particular risk:

  • Homelessness
  • Alcohol or drug addiction
  • Mental health problems
  • Chaotic home environment or recent family breakdown
  • Long-term unemployment
  • Learning difficulties
  • Debts or criminal convictions
  • Fearful of deportation or being discovered by authorities
  • Physical injuries or disabilities

Source: Hope for Justice case analysis

Why don’t victims run away?

The relationship between someone experiencing modern slavery and the person or group controlling them is complex. It is rare for the control to be based on physical confinement like locked doors or shackles. Instead, victims are exploited through manipulation, fear, dependency, threats or debt bondage.

This means that during the time they are actually in exploitation, few people think of themselves as being a ‘victim’. They often describe feeling hopeless or having no options, or even feel a sense of obligation towards those who trafficked them. They do not understand their situation as being one that they could run away from or escape from.

For many, it is only once they get long-term help from a specialist organisation like Hope for Justice that they understand the extent of the exploitation and that a different life is possible, with the right support.

Source: Hope for Justice case analysis


Together we can help more of those who are trapped and alone.


1. Hope for Justice analysis drawing on and updating previous research contained in ‘Profits and Poverty: The Economics of Forced Labour’ (International Labour Organization, 2014) which estimated that in 2014, commercial sexual exploitation generated US$99bn a year, and that US$51 billion was generated by forced economic exploitation, including domestic work, agriculture and other economic activities. This totalled $150bn / approximately £100bn per year.

2. Global Estimates of Modern Slavery (International Labour Organization, Walk Free, and International Organization for Migration, 2022)

3. Hope for Justice case analysis

4. Hope for Justice case analysis

5. Modern Slavery: NRM and Duty to Notify statistics UK, end of year summary 2022 (Home Office, 2023)

6. Hope for Justice case analysis

7. Human trafficking and migrant smuggling (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2021)

8. International Labour Organization / Walk Free / IOM, Sept 2022

young girl