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Work

ILO says over 20 million people working as slaves

Forced labor in the private economy generates billions of dollars in illegal profits each year. That figure rose to about three times more than previously estimated, according to a fresh ILO report.

The ILO report said two thirds of an estimated $150 billion (99 billion euros) came from involuntary prostitution. Another $51 billion resulted from domestic work, agriculture, and other economic activities. Ninety percent of forced labor occurs in the private sector, with the rest imposed by governments, such as in North Korea.

More than half the world's slaves are female

More than half the people in forced labor are women and girls, primarily in commercial sexual exploitation and domestic work. Men and boys are primarily forced to work in agriculture, construction, and mining.

"While progress is being made in reducing state-imposed forced labor, we must now focus on the socio-economic factors that make people vulnerable to forced labor in the private sector," said Beate Andrees, head of the ILO's Special Action Program to Combat Forced Labour.

Modern Slavery in Singapore

Andrees said many of those subjected to forced labor don't earn any money at all. Income shocks and poverty are the main economic factors that push individuals into forced labor. Other factors include lack of education, illiteracy and migration.

About 5.5 million of the victims are children. The Asia-Pacific region is home to more than half of forced workers worldwide, around 11.7 million people, who generate $51.8 billion each year for their exploitative employers. Africa is next in line with 3.7 million forced laborers, followed by Latin America and the Caribbean with 1.8 million. An estimated 600,000 are forced to work in the Middle East.

Western world not off the hook

In developed economies, an estimated 1.5 million people are forced to work. Because their services are more valuable, they make the second-highest profit for their employers, with ruthless bosses jointly making $46.9 billion from illegal workers.

"If we want to make a significant change in the lives of the 21 million men, women and children in forced labor, we need to take concrete and immediate action," the ILO Director-General said. "That means working with governments to strengthen law, policy and enforcement, with employers to strengthen their due diligence against forced labor, including in their supply chains, and with trade unions to represent and empower those at risk."

nz/hg (ILO, AFP)

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