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What Is Modern Slavery?

Slavery did not end with abolition in the 19th century. Slavery continues today and harms people in every country in the world. And we’re not just talking about jobs that suck or bad marriages.

Modern slavery involves women forced into prostitution. People forced to work in agriculture, domestic work and factories. Children in sweatshops producing goods sold globally. Entire families forced to work for nothing to pay off generational debts. Girls forced to marry older men.

There are estimated 40.3 million people in modern slavery around the world, including:

  • 10 million children

  • 24.9 million people in forced labour

  • 15.4 million people in forced marriage

  • 4.8 million people in forced sexual exploitation

Someone is in slavery if they are:

  • forced to work – through coercion, or mental or physical threat;

  • owned or controlled by an ’employer’, through mental or physical abuse or the threat of abuse;

  • dehumanised, treated as a commodity or bought and sold as ‘property’;

  • physically constrained or have restrictions placed on their freedom of movement.

Modern slavery in numbers

  • 40.3 million people are in modern slavery across the world

  • 10 million children are in slavery across the world

  • 30.4 million people are in slavery in the Asia-Pacific region, mostly in bonded labour

  • 9.1 million people are in slavery in Africa

  • 2.1 million people are in slavery in The Americas

  • 1.5 million people are in slavery in developed economies

  • 16 million slavery victims are exploited in economic activities

  • 4.8 million people are in forced into sexual exploitation

  • 99% of people trafficked for sexual exploitation are women and girls

  • 4.1 million people in slavery are exploited by governments

  • US$ 150 billion – illegal profits forced labour in the private economy generates per year

*All estimates by ILO

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