It looks like you are using an out of date browser.
Please update your browser in order to use this website.

News  › 
Top News Traffickers taking 6 billion in illegal profits at victims’ expense

Traffickers taking $236 billion in illegal profits at victims’ expense

The annual global profits from forced labour and forced sexual exploitation have risen to an estimated $236 billion (£185 billion), according to a new International Labour Organization (ILO) report. 

The ‘alarming’ new estimates show a 37% rise since 2014, when the last set of figures were released. The ILO’s research reinforces Hope for Justice’s own estimate, published last summer. Our team calculated that modern slavery and human trafficking were making over $245 billion for criminals every year, very similar to the new ILO research. 

“What the study reveals is alarming. Total illegal profits from forced labour are not only extremely high but appear to have risen dramatically over the last decade, […] fuelled by both a growth in the number of people forced into labour, as well as higher profits generated from the exploitation of victims.”

International Labour Organization

A total of 27.6 million people were trapped in forced labour and forced sexual exploitation on any given day in 2021, according to the report. The profits generated by sexual exploitation accounted for more than two-thirds (73%) of the total illegal profits covered by the report, which said: “The high profits per victim of forced commercial sexual exploitation are a reflection of the extremely limited share of earnings trickling down to the victims, the vast majority of whom are women and girls.” 

Hope for Justice knows from its own work with survivors of modern slavery and human trafficking that victims are often paid very little, or indeed nothing at all. In some instances, their wages are taken from them, and they are held in debt bondage to their trafficker. 

Traffickers and criminals are making an average of $10,000 per victim, the ILO said, though the figures are much higher for those in forced commercial sexual exploitation (an average of $27,250 per victim, globally). With 1.3 million children in commercial sexual exploitation, and another 1.68 million in forms of forced labour, the total profits made by the criminals from child victims can be estimated at $41.9 billion: $35.6 billion from sex trafficking, and $6.2 billion from forced labour.

Among all people, adults and children, the sheer numbers of people affected mean that forced labour in industry is making perpetrators the most money annually ($35 billion), followed by forced labour within the service sector ($20.8 billion), agriculture ($5 billion) and domestic work ($2.6 billion). 

Geographically, the highest profits from forced labour were Europe and Central Asia ($84 billion), followed by Asia and the Pacific ($62 billion), the Americas ($52 billion), Africa ($20 billion) and then the Arab States ($18 billion). 

Gilbert Houngbo, the director-general of the ILO, said: “People in forced labour are subject to multiple forms of coercion, the deliberate and systematic withholding of wages being amongst the most common. Forced labour perpetuates cycles of poverty and exploitation and strikes at the heart of human dignity. We now know that the situation has only got worse. The international community must urgently come together to take action to end this injustice, safeguard workers’ rights, and uphold the principles of fairness and equality for all.” 

young girl