Modern slavery is a growing challenge thanks to a mix of armed conflict, climate change and a pandemic, a new report from the United Nations (UN) reveals.
Estimates from the International Labor Organization (ILO) suggest that 50 million people — or one in 150 individuals — are trapped in forced labor or marriage.
This represents an increase of almost 10 million in statistics recorded five years ago.
The ILO considers the fact that the situation worsens is “shocking”.
“Nothing can justify the persistence of this fundamental abuse of human rights,” said Guy Ryder, the organization’s director general.
“We know what needs to be done and a practical approach is needed. Unions, employers’ organizations, civil society and the people themselves all have critical roles to play.”
The UN labor organization made a point of emphasizing that slavery is not limited to far-flung poor countries — more than half of all forced labor takes place in the upper-middle or upper-income range of the richest countries.
The newly released data takes into account both labor and forced marriage as types of modern slavery — in both situations, the victim cannot leave “because of threats, violence, deception, abuse of power or other forms of coercion.”
“Incarceration at work can last for years, while in most cases forced marriage is a life sentence,” the report says.
About 27.6 million people are in forced labour, including 3.3 million children. Within this younger group, more than half are subjected to commercial sexual exploitation.
Another 22 million individuals are in forced marriages — more than two-thirds are women — and many victims were not even 15 years old when the marriage took place.
The fact that things are getting worse is due to a complex mix of “aggravating crises”, the report says. Together they increase poverty and the risk of enslavement.
The Covid-19 pandemic, for example, has caused a huge disruption in people’s incomes, leading to more debt – which is paid for with forced labor in some places. The ILO says the pandemic has led to an increase in “extreme global poverty” for the first time in 20 years.
War and armed conflict also lead to dire circumstances, such as the recruitment of children to serve as soldiers.
Climate change, on the other hand, forces people to leave their homes and become migrants—immediately putting them in a vulnerable position.
The report calls for an international effort that pools resources and genuine will to tackle the problem.
“Promises and declarations of good intention are not enough”, warns the publication
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