According to UN data for 2019, 70% of child labor is in agriculture.

Photo: Unicef.

In the 21st century, around 50 million people around the planet live in slavery, according to the latest estimates published this Monday by the International Labor Organization (ILO).

Of the total,

28 million are victims of forced labor and the rest, 22 million, live trapped in forced marriages.

The ILO stressed that

the figures have not stopped growing over the last five years

, with ten million more people in a situation of modern slavery compared to the global estimates of 2016.

The report of the specialized agency highlights that the phenomenon of modern slavery appears in almost every country in the world and transcends ethnic, cultural and religious lines.

More than half (52%) of all forced labor and a quarter of all forced marriages take place in upper-middle or high-income countries.

According to updated estimates, most cases of forced labor (86%) are located within the private economy, while the remaining 14% occur at the state level.

63% of those affected by this form of exploitation work in various sectors and

23% work in forced commercial sexual exploitation

, an area in which almost four out of five people are women or girls.

The total number of women and girls in forced labor amounts to 11.8 million, while the number of children who suffer from it and do not attend school exceeds 3.3 million.

In 2021 there were ten million more people in modern slavery compared to global estimates in 2016. Women and children remain disproportionately vulnerable.

Migrant workers are more than three times as likely

to be in forced labor as their non-migrant counterparts.

Although labor migration has a broadly positive effect on individuals, households, communities and societies, this finding demonstrates how migrants are particularly vulnerable to forced labor and human trafficking, whether caused by irregular migration or by unfair and unethical hiring practices, the ILO points out in its report.

The director general of the Organization, Guy Ryder, described as "scandalous" the fact that there is no improvement in the situation of slavery, since "nothing can justify" the perpetuation of "this fundamental abuse of human rights".

“We know what needs to be done, and we know that it can be done.

Effective national policies and regulations are essential.

But governments cannot do it alone.

International standards provide a solid foundation and a multi-stakeholder approach is needed.

“Trade unions, business organizations, civil society and ordinary citizens all have a critical role to play,” said Ryder.

For his part, the director general of the International Organization for Migration, António Vitorino, considered that the report "underlines the urgency of guaranteeing" that any form of migration "is safe, orderly and regular."

Vitorino stated that “reducing the vulnerability of migrants to forced labor and human trafficking depends, first of all, on national political and legal frameworks that respect, protect and fulfill the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all migrants. , and potential migrants, at all stages of the migration process, regardless of their migration status.

He added that "all of society must collaborate to reverse these shocking trends, including the application of the Global Compact on Migration."

More cases of forced marriage are suspected

During the last five years, the number of forced marriages grew by 6.6 million, reaching a total of 22 million.


the ILO warns that the number of cases, especially those involving children under 16, is probably much higher than current estimates reflect

, as they are based on a narrow definition and do not include all child marriages either.

"Forced marriage is closely linked to deep-rooted patriarchal attitudes and practices and depends largely on the context," warns the study by the United Nations specialized agency, which also highlights that

the overwhelming majority of forced marriages (more than 85%) It was driven by family pressure.

Although two-thirds (65%) of forced marriages occur in Asia and the Pacific, accounting for regional population size, the highest prevalence of forced unions occurs in the Arab States, at 4.8 persons per 1,000, specifies the ILO.

Among the recommendations included by the ILO in the study are improving and enforcing labor laws and inspections, putting an end to forced labor imposed by the State and reinforcing measures to combat forced labor and human trafficking in companies. and supply chains.

Also, expand social protection, strengthen legal protections, including raising the legal age of marriage to 18 without exception, and address the increased risk of trafficking and forced labor for migrant workers.

Finally, the organization recommends promoting fair and ethical hiring, and encouraging greater support for women, girls and vulnerable people.

(With information from UN News and ILO)