World has 50-M ‘modern slaves’

Nearly all countries account for children and women trapped in forced labor or marriage

GENEVA, Switzerland (AFP) — Fifty million people around the world are trapped in forced labor or forced marriage, the United Nations said Monday, warning that their ranks had swelled dramatically in recent years.

The UN had set a goal to eradicate all forms of modern slavery by 2030, but instead the number of people caught up in forced labor or forced marriage ballooned by 10 million between 2016 and 2021, according to a new report.

The study, by the UN’s agencies for labor and migration along with the Walk Free Foundation, found that at the end of last year, 28 million people were in forced labor, while 22 million were living in a marriage they had been forced into.

That means nearly one out of every 150 people in the world are caught up in modern forms of slavery, the report said.

“It is shocking that the situation of modern slavery is not improving,” Guy Ryder, head of the International Labor Organization, said in a statement.

“Nothing can justify the persistence of this fundamental abuse of human rights.”

Children account for one out of five people in forced labor, with more than half of them stuck in commercial sexual exploitation, the report said.

Migrant workers are meanwhile more than three times more likely to be in forced labor than non-migrant adult workers, it showed.

Modern slavery is present in basically every country in the world, with more than half of cases of forced labor and a quarter of forced marriages in upper-middle income or high-income countries.

The report found that the number of people — mainly women and girls — stuck in forced marriages had risen by a full 6.6 million since the last global estimates in 2016.

The number of people in forced labor swelled by 2.7 million over the same period.

The increase was driven entirely by more forced labor in the private economy, including in forced commercial sexual exploitation.

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