Wednesday, June 6, 2012

ILO Says 21 Million People May Be Victims of Forced Labor

The International Labor Organization has released a report finding that almost 21 million people worldwide are trapped in jobs into  which they were coerced or deceived and which they cannot leave. The 2012 Global Estimate of Forced Labour found that the Asia-Pacific region accounts for the largest number of the 20.9  million forced labourers in the world – 11.7 million, or 56 per cent, of the global total. This is followed by Africa at 3.7 million and Latin America with 1.8 million victims.

According to the ILO, forced labor takes different forms, including debt bondage, trafficking, and other forms of modern slavery.  The victims are usually women and girls forced into prostitution, migrants trapped in debt bondage, and sweatshop or farm workers kept by clearly illegal tactics and paid little or nothing.

In the new estimates, 18.7 million people (90 per cent of  the total) are exploited in the private economy, by individuals or enterprises. Of these, 4.5 million are victims of forced sexual exploitation  and 14.2 million are victims of forced labor exploitation in economic activities such as agriculture, construction, domestic work, or manufacturing. Another 2.2 million people are in state-imposed forms of forced labor, such as in prisons under conditions that violate ILO standards, or in work imposed by the state military or by rebel armed forces.  The ILO also found that 5.5 million forced laborers (26 percent of the total number) are below 18 years of age. 

“We have come a long way over the last seven years since we first put an estimate on how many people were forced into labour or services  across the world,” the head of the ILO’s Special Action Programme to Combat  Forced Labour, Beate Andrees, said in a news release. “We have made good progress in ensuring most countries now have legislation in place which criminalises forced labour, human trafficking and slavery-like practices.” She noted that it is now necessary to focus on better identification and prosecution of forced labor and related offenses such as human trafficking. 

The ILO hopes that the availability of more accurate information on the problem will enable the international community to take more effective measures to end forced labor. 

(mew) (adapted from a UN Press Release)

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