Forced labor generates annual profits of 236 billion US dollars

Illegal profits from forced labor around the world have reached an “obscene” US$236 billion a year, the International Labor Organization (ILO) reported on Tuesday.

Sexual exploitation accounts for three-quarters of these profits, which deprive migrants of money they can send home, steal jobs from legitimate workers and enable criminals who are the origin of evading tax.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) said the figures for 2021, the most recent year covered by the careful international study, represented an increase of 37%, or US$64 billion, from its last estimate. published ten years ago. This is because more people are exploited and more money is generated per victim, according to the ILO.

“Two hundred and thirty-six billion dollars. This is the obscene level of annual profits generated by forced labor in the world today,” reads the first line of the report’s introduction. This figure represents income “effectively stolen from the pockets of workers” by those who force them to work, as well as money taken from migrants’ remittances and lost tax revenue for governments.

ILO officials noted that the sum is equivalent to the economic output of European Union member Croatia and dwarfs the annual revenues of tech giants such as Microsoft and Samsung.


Forced labor can encourage corruption, strengthen criminal networks and incite further exploitation, the ILO said.

Its director general, Gilbert Houngbo, wants international cooperation to fight this scourge.

“People subjected to forced labor are subject to multiple forms of coercion, with deliberate and systematic withholding of wages being one of the most common,” he recalled in a press release. Forced labor perpetuates cycles of poverty and exploitation and undermines human dignity. »

“We now know that the situation has only gotten worse,” Mr. Houngbo added.

The ILO defines forced labor as work imposed against the will of the employee and under penalty of sanction ― or the threat of sanction. It can occur at any stage of employment: during recruitment, in the living conditions associated with work or by forcing people to stay in a job when they want to leave it.

In 2021, an estimated 27.6 million people were subject to forced labor, an increase of 10% compared to five years earlier, according to the ILO. The Asia-Pacific region was home to more than half of these people, while Africa, the Americas, and Europe-Central Asia each accounted for about 13 to 14 percent.

Some 85% of those affected worked in “privately imposed forced labor”, which can include slavery, serfdom, debt bondage and activities such as forms of begging where money collected goes to benefit someone else, the ILO said. The rest were subjected to forced labor imposed by government authorities, a practice not covered by the study.

Some have denounced “modern slavery” in places such as the prison system in the US state of Alabama.

Far from the goals

ILO experts said forced labor imposed by governments was excluded from the report due to a lack of data on it, even though estimates show that nearly 4 million people are affected by the practice.

“The ILO denounces cases of state-imposed forced labor wherever it occurs, whether in prison systems, the abuse of military conscription or other forms or manifestations of forced labor by state or mail,” said Scott Lyon, a senior ILO policy official.

While the report indicates that just over a quarter of the world’s victims are subjected to sexual exploitation, it represents nearly US$173 billion in profits, or almost three-quarters of the global total ― a sign higher margins generated by the sale of sexual services.

Three years ago, some 6.3 million people faced situations of forced commercial sexual exploitation on any given day ― and nearly four in five of those victims were girls or women, according to the ILO. Children accounted for more than a quarter of the total cases.

Forced labor in industry comes far behind, with US$35 billion, followed by services with almost US$21 billion, agriculture with US$5 billion and domestic work with US$2.6 billion, a indicated the employment agency based in Geneva.

Manuela Tomei, ILO deputy director-general for governance, pointed out at a conference launching the report in Brussels ― where the European Union Parliament is set to finalize new rules aimed at cracking down on labor forced ― that “no region is safe” from the practice of forced labor and that all economic sectors are affected.

Although some countries, including the United States, were cited at the conference for their efforts to combat forced labor, Ms. Tomei said the world was “far away” from the UN’s goals to eradicate forced labor. forced by 2030.

To watch on video

source site-39