Although slavery is illegal in the 21st century in all the world’s countries, it is still practiced today. Forced labour and modern forms of slavery are not isolated cases, as the number of people subjected to modern slavery is around 40.3 million, including 24.9 million forced laborers. Moreover, this is not exclusive to adults, as 1 in 4 victims of modern slavery are minors and nearly 1 in 10 children in the world are subjected to forced labor.
The fact that organised crime and corruption perpetuate these human rights violations is due to the failure of governments to protect people in this situation. On the occasion of the Week of Action against child labour, we have made this post to explain this reality.
Difference between forced labor and modern forms of slavery
Forced labour is work performed by a person involuntarily under threat. Modern forms of slavery, on the other hand, involve subhuman working conditions, but exclude certain elements that define forced labor. These criteria may include deprivation of liberty; withholding of wages or identification documents; violence; threats or fraudulent debts. In addition to being a serious human rights violation, forced labour is a criminal offence.
Forced labor today
Of the 40.3 million people subjected to any modern form of slavery, nearly 25 million are exploited in forced labor. Of these, nearly 16 million work in the private sector. This work is mainly distributed among domestic service, agriculture and construction. Fifty-eight percent of these people are women.
Nearly 5 million are involved in forced sexual exploitation. Here, the inequality is even more pronounced, since 99 % are women.
The data on forced labour is complemented by the institutional violence that certain countries still exercise through their corresponding legislation. Four million people are condemned to forced labour in countries where this practice is still in force.
Modern forms of slavery today
If the 40.3 million exploited people are divided by gender, 29 million, or 71%, are girls or women. In the words of Walk Free, one in 130 women or girls are victims of modern slavery. Add to that figure 15.8 million forced into forced marriages. Cross-referenced with Unicef figures, 12 million child marriages take place every year. Gender inequality undoubtedly affects the prevalence of modern slavery.
The main causes that make children vulnerable are poverty, discrimination and the absence of social policies. In addition to this is the impossibility of access to a quality education system and the economic interests of certain States, multinationals or other groups.
According to Save the Children, 85 million children suffer some kind of exploitation:
- Child trafficking
- Sexual exploitation
- Forced labor due to indebtedness
- Mining and agriculture
- Domestic slavery
- Child marriage
- Child soldiers
How to eliminate modern forms of slavery
The international community is trying to eliminate modern forms of slavery with declarations, which are expected to become active policies.
UN Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development
Sustainable economic development is only possible with the eradication of poverty in any of its manifestations and throughout the planet. To this end, the elimination of child labor by 2025, as well as all types of modern slavery, is set as a goal.
The European Commission’s Due Diligence Directive (2022)
This directive, long awaited by human rights associations, homogenises the domestic legislation of some European countries. Some of them are ahead of the directive. This is the case in the United Kingdom, France and the Netherlands.
The aim is to oblige companies to report on respect for human rights throughout their value chain.
ILO’s Forced Labor Protocol
So far, 59 countries have ratified it. The ILO is giving the unions a leading role in putting an end to labor exploitation.
Modern Slavery Act
This is one of the most far-reaching standards against modern slavery. It affects all companies with a turnover of more than £36 million and their supply chains. It does not matter whether they operate exclusively in the UK or only in part of the UK. It does not include penalties, but it does affect brand reputation.
Legislation, such as the Modern Slavery Act, and the involvement of institutional representatives, such as Fernando Villegas, are leading the way. In March, he raised his voice to involve civil society in the eradication of this scourge. For companies, having a digitized control system is a great help in collaborating for the end of all forms of modern slavery.
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