What are the key stats?

  • $150 billion (USD) is the estimated annual profit generated through human trafficking and slavery. Of that, commercial sexual exploitation generates $99 billion.
  • An estimated 40.3 million people are trapped in slavery today. More than ever before in recorded history. This is made up of 24.9 million victims of forced labour exploitation and 15.4 million victims of forced marriage.
  • Of the 24.9 million people enslaved forced labour exploitation, 4.8 million are victims of forced commercial sexual exploitation, 16 million are exploited in the private sector such as domestic work, construction or agriculture, and four million are in forced labour imposed by state authorities.
  • 99% of victims of forced commercial sexual exploitation are women and girls.
  • Modern slavery occurs in every region of the world. It is most prevalent in Africa (7.6 per 1,000 people), followed by Asia and the Pacific (6.1 per 1,000) then Europe and Central Asia (3.9 per 1,000).
  • The majority of those in slavery are women and girls, accounting for almost 29 million, or 71 per cent, of victims.
  • 10 million—one in four—victims of slavery are children (under 18).
  • Most victims for forced marriage (88 per cent) are women and girls, with more than a third of victims under 18 years of age at the time of marriage. Among child victims, 44 per cent were forced to marry before the age of 15 years.

What’s slavery? What’s human trafficking? What’s the difference?

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) describes slavery as “situations of exploitation that a person cannot refuse or leave because of threats, violence, coercion, deception, and/or abuse of power”.

The United Nations defines human trafficking as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.”

If a child is recruited with the intention of exploitation, this is automatically classed as trafficking regardless of whether coercion is used or not.

Basically, trafficking is the process by which someone becomes exploited, and slavery is the situation of exploitation they cannot refuse or leave.

How is labour exploitation defined?

Forced labour is defined by ILO Forced Labour Convention 1930 as “all work or service that is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself [or herself] voluntarily.”

In other words, it's when someone is forced to do something they don't want to do for commercial or personal gain. It's a pretty broad definition, but it helps to encapsulate the breadth of exploitation around the world.

How is forced marriage defined?

The ILO describes forced marriage as a marriage without the consent of one of the people. That is, they’re enduring a situation that involved having lost their sexual autonomy and often involves providing labour under the guise of marriage. If one person is a child (under the age of 18), this counts as forced marriage as children cannot give consent to marriage.

How is child labour defined?

The ILO in its research defines child labour as “work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development. It refers to work that: - is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children; and - interferes with their schooling by: - depriving them of the opportunity to attend school; - obliging them to leave school prematurely; or - requiring them to attempt to combine school attendance with excessively long and heavy work.”

Its definition of children is under 18 years of age.

I've seen different numbers and statistics on human trafficking. Where do you get yours from?

It’s difficult to compile accurate statistics around human trafficking and exploitation as lot of the behaviour is underground and never reported. We use the International Labour Organisation’s statistics (a UN agency) as we believe their methodology to be the most robust and credible. They can be lower than other estimates, but we would rather go with conservative numbers to avoid sensationalising the issue—it’s already sensationalist enough.

Why have the numbers increased?

The increase is largely due to the ILO now including forced marriage in its statistics on slavery, which it updated in September 2017. It previously only included forced labour exploitation, which it estimated at 20.9 million. Forced labour exploitation has been reassessed at 24.9 million, and an additional 15.4 million people in forced marriage have been added to the numbers in slavery, bringing the total to 40.3 million.

Tearfund combats human trafficking and exploitation through five partners in five countries, working across the spectrum in prevention, prosecution, and rehabilitation. To become a regular supporter of Tearfund’s anti-trafficking and exploitation work click here.


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