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10 Things You Might Not Know About Forced Labor
September 5, 2019

Since we recently celebrated Labor Day Weekend, it seems an appropriate time, in honor of the efforts of the Labor movement which brought much more humane working standards, to reflect on the people who are still suffering under oppressive or slavery-like working conditions. According to the International Labor Organization, almost 25 million people around the world are engaged in forced labor, mostly in domestic work, construction, garment factories (think “fast fashion”) or agriculture.

Here are some other things you might be interested to find out!

10 Facts About Forced Labor

  1. Forced labor is defined by two conditions: the work is involuntary, and the degree of menace in the penalty for not complying.
  2. It does not refer to the legal or illegal nature of the work, and it does not refer to how arduous, complex, physically demanding or dangerous the work is.
  3. The stereotype is that men and boys are the ones put into labor trafficking, while women and girls are the ones in sex trafficking. In fact, it can be both. Men and boys can be sex trafficked, and women and girls make up a significant part of who gets trafficked into forced labor.
  4. There is a lot of sexual harassment and sexual abuse that happens. In job conditions with little pay, long hours, and no contracts or worker protections, other kinds of abuses such as gender-based violence also run rampant.
  5. While the image we have of labor trafficking is that it is run by private companies or individuals, the ILO reports that it even happens under the watch of state authorities.
  6. Forced labor under state authorities includes citizens being recruited for labor, young military conscripts forced to do work outside the scope of the military, and prison labor forced against their will to work outside.
  7. Children represent 21% of the victims of forced sexual exploitation, 18% of those subjected to forced labour exploitation, and 7% of people forced to work by state authorities.
  8. A significant reason people are vulnerable to being forced into exploitative labor rests on debt. Debt bondage is when someone is forced to work as a way to pay off personal debt. Wages are withheld to prevent them from leaving, or there is the threat of violence against themselves or their families.
  9. The prevalence in terms of rate: number of victims per 1,000 people is highest in Africa. The prevalence in terms of sheer number of people exploited is highest in Asia and the Pacific region.
  10. Almost 1 in 4 of every victim of forced labor was exploited outside their country of residence.
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