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Top News 50 million people worldwide now thought to be in modern slavery

50 million people worldwide now thought to be in modern slavery

The latest Global Estimates of Modern Slavery from the International Labour Organization (ILO), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and Walk Free, show that in the past 5 years, the number of people estimated to be living in conditions of modern slavery has increased by nearly 25%. 


In 2016, it had been estimated that 40.3 million people around the world were trapped in modern-day slavery. Tragically, the latest figures suggest that that has risen to 49.6 million people, or 1 in every 150 people in the world. Of this number:


19.9 million people are in forced labour

This includes people in forced labour in private or state-run companies, or criminal exploitation. The sectors most affected by forced labour exploitation are general services (including trade, transport and hospitality); manufacturing; construction; and agriculture.


6.3 million people are in forced commercial sexual exploitation, including 1.7 million children

This includes adults who are forced into commercial sexual exploitation or the production of sexual abuse materials, and in new forms of Internet-based commercial sexual exploitation. It also includes all forms of commercial sexual exploitation involving children.


1.4 million people are experiencing domestic servitude in private homes

Domestic workers are especially vulnerable to forced labour because of their isolation, deep power imbalances with their employers, and their limited access to complaints mechanisms and opportunities to organize. Restrictive visa arrangements that often tie migrant domestic workers to one employer can also increase their susceptibility to abuse, as can irregular immigration status,
including lack of a visa.


22 million people are in forced marriages

This is an increase of 6.6 million since 2016.


Why has the number increased?

Armed conflict, climate change, and Covid-19 have led to extreme poverty, unsafe migration, and disruptions to employment and education for millions of people around the world. All of these are risk factors for the different forms of modern slavery, especially as those most affected are those who were already vulnerable, including people in debt, in irregular employment, or without legal protection and rights.   


Who is being caught in modern-day slavery and where?

As in 2016, women and children are disproportionately represented among those caught in modern slavery. Women make up nearly 27 million of all those living in modern slavery, and more than 12 million are children. 


  • 11.8 million of those in forced labour are women and girls
  • Over 2/3 of those in forced marriage are female – 14.9 million women and girls
  • 3.3 million victims of forced labour are children – over half of these are trapped in commercial sexual exploitation


Another highly vulnerable group are migrant workers – they are more than three times more likely to be in forced labour than non-migrant adult workers.    


The latest Global Estimates show no country is immune to modern-day slavery. More than half (52%) of all forced labour and 26% of all forced marriages can be found in upper-middle income or high-income countries. 


What can you do?

We at Hope for Justice are profoundly saddened by these latest Global Estimates. We know that behind these statistics are individuals, with unique stories, gifts, hopes and dreams. And we are determined to keep fighting for them because we know we can make a difference.  


Last year, we were able to reach nearly 200,000 people – helping rescue and restore over 12,000 victims and potential victims of modern slavery, training nearly 20,000 frontline professionals to spot the signs and respond effectively to modern slavery and human trafficking, and making tens of thousands of families more resilient against exploitation through training and economic empowerment. 


With your help, we can reach even more. With your help, we can bring down these Global Estimates. 


Step by step, we can bring down this $150 billion criminal industry, and be the generation to end modern slavery. 

young girl