UN Report Says Modern Slavery Is a Growing Challenge

A new UN report said modern slavery had become a worrying and growing challenge amid armed conflict, climate change, and a global pandemic.

According to the latest estimates from the International Labor Organization (ILO), at least 50 million people, accounting for one in every 1,50 people alive, are trapped in forced labor or forced marriage.

The figures are at least 10 million higher than those reported five years ago. The ILO described the worsening situation as “shocking.”

The organization’s director general stated that nothing could justify the persistence of such a “fundamental abuse of human rights.”

“We know what needs to be done… an all-hands-on-deck approach is needed. Trade unions, employers’ organizations, civil society and ordinary people all have critical roles to play,” it added.

The UN’s labor organization explained that modern slavery encompasses forced labor and forced marriage since both situations do not allow a person to leave due to threats, violence, abuse of power, deception or other forms of coercion.

“Entrapment in forced labor can last years, while in most cases forced marriage is a life sentence,” the report said.

The ILO also stated that modern slavery is not limited to poor or underdeveloped countries in the world’s remote areas. The report revealed that more than half of forced labor occurs in the richest countries in the upper-middle or high-income bracket.

At least 27.6 million people perform forced labor, including 3.3 million children – with over 50% being sexually exploited. Another 22 million people, more than two-thirds women, are victims of forced marriages. Many are under 15 when they are forced to get married.

According to the report by the UN’s labor organization, a combination of “compounding crises” are coming together to increase poverty and the risk of modern slavery.

The ILO said the Covid-19 pandemic had caused a rise in extreme global poverty for the first time in two decades. In addition, the health crisis interrupted many people’s income, creating more debt and increasing the risks of forced labor.

Armed conflicts and wars can also contribute to modern slavery, as many children are recruited to work or serve as soldiers. Furthermore, climate change has forced many to migrate, and leaving their homes places them at greater risk.