Million People Live in Slavery

ILO to launch reports on modern slavery child labour today •To host high-level conference on youth employment

It's impossible to know exactly how many people are living in modern slavery, and different studies have produced different estimates.

"It's hard or even impossible to do research in areas of high conflict", said Fiona David, Walk Free Foundation's executive director of global research, pointing to areas such as Syria or northern Nigeria that had to be excluded from the study. Notes to EditorsModern Slavery There are an estimated 40 million people trapped in Modern Slavery. The Walk Free Foundation engages with governments (Global Slavery Index), business/corporations (Bali Process Business Forum) and global faiths (Global Freedom Network). "This is truly historic", said Andrew Forrest, an Australian mining magnate and founder of the anti-slavery nonprofit organization.

Fiona David, executive director of global research at Australia-based Walk Free, said the estimated number of victims contrasted sharply with a mere "tens of thousands" of slavery cases that have gone before authorities.

She said unlike previous estimates, the findings included people forced into marriages, many of whom were taken from their homes, raped, and treated like property that could sometimes be bought, sold or passed on as inheritance. The report cautions, however, that with more accurate data, these rankings could well change.

The ILO's 2017 Estimates of Modern Slavery report calculates that of 24.9 million victims of forced labour, 16 million are thought to be in the private economy, 4.8 million in forced sexual exploitation and 4.1 million in state-sponsored forced labour including mandatory military conscription and agricultural work.

The report combined data collected from 2012 to 2016 and drew on a variety of sources, chiefly, national surveys involving interviews with more than 71,000 respondents across 48 countries.

The two reports are meant to help towards achieving target 8.7 of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). They add that the global estimates of modern slavery focus on two main issues: forced labour and forced marriage.

That may be true. The data analysis also revealed that almost 1 out of every 3 slaves is a woman and 1 out of 4 is a child. Most modern slaves tend not to be men in chains like our imagination might suggest, the report finds. More than 40 million people were victims of modern slavery in 2016, the first joint report by key anti-slavery groups reveals.

Modern slavery affects all population groups, young and old, male and female.

There was also widespread variation in the type of slavery found.

The findings take into account an estimated 15 million forced marriages, almost a third of which were children.

Both organizations describe the report as giving the most reliable slavery figures to date, and the researchers say the numbers show that much work is needed to combat the problem. The average length of time victims were in forced labour varied from a few days or weeks in some forms imposed by state authorities to almost two years for forced sexual exploitation.

About 15.4 million are forced into marriage, more than a third of whom are under 18, while a majority are girls under 15.

These include human trafficking, forced labour, debt bondage, sex trafficking, forced marriage and other slave-like exploitation.

The report found that around 15.4 million people were in marriages to which they had not consented.

Forced labour was in all kinds of industries identified by the report. Women were also disproportionately likely to face sexual violence as a coercion tactic. When taking into account that "only 63,000 victims of slavery were reported to the authorities previous year", David added, "the gulf between the problem and the insufficient global response becomes very clear".

Despite the staggering number of 40 million, enslavement is statistically a rare crime, David says.

"The first time you build a magnifying glass, you get a picture than you see with the naked eye, but it might be a bit rough, then you improve your tools over time, you improve your data over time, and over time, your picture gets clearer and clearer, and also you can see more definition in the picture", she said. "And unlike natural phenomena - like cancer or HIV or Ebola - this is something that we as people control".

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