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UN-backed research estimates some 40.3 million people live as slaves globally

Afghan children at a brick factory on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan.  - AP

Afghan children at a brick factory on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan. - AP

19/09/2017 16:45

More than 40 million people were trapped as slaves last year in forced labor and forced marriages, according to the first joint research by key anti-slavery groups to estimate the number of victims worldwide of modern day slavery.

The International Labour Organization (ILO), human rights group Walk Free Foundation, and International Organization for Migration said 40.3 million people were victims of modern slavery in 2016 - but added this was a conservative estimate

Forced labour, forced marriage

The report of the joint research released on Tuesday during the United Nations General Assembly, estimated 24.9 million people were trapped working in factories, on construction sites, farms and fishing boats, and as domestic or sex workers, while 15.4 million people were in marriages to which they had not consented.

Almost three out of every four slaves were women and girls and one in four was a child, with modern slavery most prevalent in Africa followed by Asia and Pacific, said the report.

"Forced labourers produced some of the food we eat and the clothes we wear, and they have cleaned the buildings in which many of us live or work," the groups said in the report, stressing the crime was prevalent in all nations.

The findings mark the first time the groups collaborated on an international estimate and prompted calls for stronger labour rights, improved governance of migrants, action to address root causes of debt bondage, and better victim identification.

The report found more than a third of the 15 million victims of forced marriage were aged under 18 when wed, and nearly half of those were younger than 15. Nearly all were female.

Child labour

The ILO also released a separate report showing 152 million children were victims of child labor, which amounted to nearly one in every 10 child worldwide, with almost half of those engaged in hazardous work.  More than two-thirds of these children were working on a family farm or in a family business, with 71 percent overall working in agriculture.

The calculation of forced labor included the private economy, forced sexual exploitation and state-imposed labor.  Half of forced laborers were victims of debt bondage, who were made to work to repay a debt or other obligation, and nearly four million adults and one million children were victims of forced sexual exploitation.

"The vast majority of forced labour today exists in the private economy. This underscores the importance of partnering with the business community ... to eradicate forced labour in supply chains," the report said.

According to ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder, the message that the joint research sends out is that “the world won’t be in a position to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals unless we dramatically increase our efforts to fight these scourges.”  “These new global estimates can help shape and develop interventions to prevent both forced labour and child labour,”  Ryder added.   (Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation)

19/09/2017 16:45