U.N. report: 21 million people remain in slavery

By Aileen Graef  |  May 20, 2014 at 3:35 PM
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GENEVA, Switzerland, May 20 (UPI) -- The U.N. International Labor Organization (ILO) released a report Tuesday stating the slavery and forced labor business generates $150 billion in profits a year.

The ILO study that reported on the 21 million people trapped in slavery, found that $99 billion, almost two-thirds of total profits, come from sex trafficking and exploitation. The remainder of the profits come from labor such as domestic work, construction, and farming.

"This new report takes our understanding of trafficking, forced labor and modern slavery to a new level," said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder. "Forced labor is bad for business and development and especially for its victims. Our new report adds new urgency to our efforts to eradicate this fundamentally evil, but hugely profitable practice as soon as possible."

More than half of the 21 million in slavery are females trapped in sexual exploitation and domestic work. Men are primarily found to be working in agriculture and construction. The report shows that slavery is most profitable in developed countries such as those in the EU. The EU and other developed economies come in second behind Asia and the Pacific, with an annual profit of forced labor of $46.9 billion and a $34,800 profit per victim.

"While progress is being made in reducing state-imposed forced labor, we must now focus on the socio-economic factors that make people vulnerable to forced labor in the private sector," said head of the ILO's Special Action Program to Combat Forced Labor Beate Andrees.

Andrees recommended that these steps include social protections to prevent desperate people from being subject to abusive lending or indentured servitude, investing in education, and supporting the rights for migrant workers and workers in fields susceptible to forced labor practices.

"We have to realize that the problem of slavery is one that touches us all, as in a globalized economy we all buy products likely to be tainted by forced labor," said Aidan McQuade, director of Anti-Slavery International. "That is why the governments need to take concrete steps to address forced labour across the world."

The U.S. House of Representatives is reviewing anti-sex trafficking legislation this week, in a effort to hinder the growing business.

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