According to an ILO report, the need to deter would-be perpetrators is widely recognized, but
more effort is needed to identify cases of forced labour and to prevent the crime.
News | 08 February 2013
GENEVA (ILO News) – A new ILO report highlights the need for tougher measures
to combat forced labour, which claims 21 million victims worldwide – men, women
and children coerced into jobs they can’t leave, trapped in debt bondage,
trafficked for sexual exploitation and even born into slavery.
short of what is needed, despite good practices in some countries, the
International Labour Organization said, in a report prepared ahead
of meeting of experts on forced labour representing governments,
workers and employers (February 11-15, 2013).
Many forced labour victims work hidden from public view, on fishing
vessels and construction sites, in commercial agriculture and in factories.
“Forced labour encompasses brick kiln workers trapped in a vicious
cycle of debt, children trafficked for forced begging and domestic
workers deceived about their conditions of work,” the report said.
Debt bondage, under which labourers and their families are forced to
work for an employer to pay off the debts they have incurred or
inherited, remains widespread in some countries.
According to the report authors, “vestiges of slavery” still survive in
some countries, where “conditions of slavery continue to be transmitted
by birth to individuals who are compelled to work for their master without
Domestic workers, the majority of whom are women and girls, are
often victims of abusive practices by employers, such as non-payment
of wages, deprivation of liberty, and physical and sexual abuse. These
practices can amount to forced labour.
Migrant workers are at risk too. The report warns that trafficking of people,
including children, for sexual and labour exploitation, could increase in the
future as a result of growing labour mobility.
On the other hand, the systematic imposition of forced labour by the state
has declined worldwide, and has practically disappeared in the great
majority of countries. State-imposed forced labour accounts for 10 per
cent of the nearly 21 million victims of forced labour worldwide,
according to 2012 ILO figures contained in the report.
Punishment is not strong enoughOver recent years, there has been growing recognition of the importance
of measures to deter would-be perpetrators, strengthen law enforcement
responses, address demand and reduce the vulnerability of potential victims
of forced labour.
But, while most countries have adopted legislation criminalizing forced labour,
punishment is not always strong enough to act as a deterrent, in some cases
amounting to fines or very short prison sentences.
Most countries lack comprehensive measures targeting demand for forced
labour goods and services, though some countries have taken legal and
other measures to discourage individuals and businesses from exploiting
workers in slavery-like conditions.
Identifying victims also remains a major challenge. Some countries fail
to sufficiently support labour inspections, which can play a key role in
finding the victims, as well as preventing situations of abuse from
degenerating into forced labour.
In many cases, measures have been taken to reduce the vulnerability
of specific groups, such as awareness-raising programmes aimed at
workers heading overseas.
The February 11-15 meeting at ILO headquarters will assess the
need for further standard-setting to complement the ILO’s Forced
Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29) and Abolition of Forced Labour
Convention, 1957 (No. 105), by focusing in particular on prevention,
victim protection, including compensation and trafficking for labour exploitation.
* Almost 21 million people are victims of forced labour – 11.4 million women and
girls and 9.5 million men and boys.
* Children under the age of 18 years represent 26 per cent (5.5 million) of
all forced labour victims.
* Almost 19 million victims are exploited by private individuals or enterprises
and over 2 million by the state or rebel groups.
*Of those exploited by individuals or enterprises, 4.5 million are
victims of forced sexual exploitation.
* Those who exact or promote forced labour generate vast
* Domestic work, agriculture, construction, manufacturing and
entertainment are among the sectors most concerned.
*Migrant workers and indigenous people are particularly vulnerable
to forced labour.