04 Aug
  • By James Evans

Modern Day Slavery

Slavery is a reality for an estimated 21 million people (minimum) every day, 5.5 million of which are children, 90 percent of these people are exploited in the private economy by individuals and private groups. It is an industry which is worth an estimated 150 billion a year which is more than the profits of the world’s four biggest companies combined. Far from being gone or eradicated slavery has never been larger (in terms of the amount of people enslaved globally) Despite this only being a tiny amount of the world’s total population its huge revenue only shows just how large this business is.

Despite its scale, the industry is largely invisible and most people in the western world rarely see (or realise they see) someone involved in this the slave trade. Regardless of its illegality and abolition, slavery has only diversified and spread. Another myth which many people believe is that slavery is limited to the developing world. However, between Europe, North America and Japan an estimated 1.5 million people are in forced labour or slavery like situations, that is based on the International Labour Organizations 2012 figures, which means it’s probably far more now. Similarly, the profits from forced labour are far far higher in developed nations and the E.U in particular


(Victims of Forced Labour by Region. Source International Labour Organisation.)

Many people think first of sexual exploitation as the primary form of slavery today, while it is indeed a large part (4.5 million people) in fact forced labour exploitation in industries such as agriculture, fishing construction, manufacturing, mining, utilities and domestic work is far larger, with an estimated 14.2 million people.

There are many forms of slavery today however, many people who are in slavery will fall into several these categories. The categories as defined by the ILO are as follows;

  • Forced labour which is any work or services which people are forced to do against their will under the threat of some form of punishment.
  • Debt bondage or bonded labour – the world’s most widespread form of slavery, when people borrow money they cannot repay and are required to work to pay off the debt, then losing control over the conditions of both their employment and the debt.
  • Human trafficking– involves transporting, recruiting or harbouring people for exploitation, using violence, threats or coercion.
  • Descent-based slavery – where people are born into slavery because their ancestors were captured and enslaved; they remain in slavery by descent.
  • Child slavery – child slavery is often confused with child labour but is much worse. Whilst child labour is harmful to children and hinders their education and development, child slavery occurs when a child’s labour is exploited for someone else’s gain. It can include child trafficking, child soldiers, child marriage and child domestic slavery.
  • Forced and early marriage – when someone is married against their will and cannot leave the marriage. Most child marriages can be considered slavery.


Many of the products and items we use every day are produced with some contact with the slave industry. Almost all electronic devices and games consoles are made in some very suspicious circumstances. Apple has come under fire for its use of certain factories in Asia that blatantly abuses countless human rights. Major clothes retail stores such as Walmart and Primark have repeatedly come under pressure for their use of underage and underpaid workers in awful conditions and have repeatedly been accused of using slave labour.

Like many issues in society, they do not affect everyone in the same way, the often affect the most vulnerable people in our societies far more. Technically, of course, anyone could be a slave, however, some people are far more vulnerable than others. People who live in poverty, people who have limited opportunities and people who are fleeing from conflict are among the easiest targets. In other words, the more desperate people are the more likely they will be to accept deceptive offers and chances. Slavery is also far more likely to occur in places without stability and places where corruption is rife.

They are some great organisation working hard to fight this issue in all parts of the world some working on the ground to help the victims out while others working at government levels to get countries to enforce and stand up to this trade. Some interesting ones with lots of information include Anti-Slavery group, Not For Sale and 50 for Freedom. The ILO website as has lots of the actual statistics and some useful resources.



“21 million people are now victims of forced labour” The International Labour Organisation.–en/index.htm

“What is modern slavery?” Anti-slavery, 2017.


“Your story is touched by modern slavery” Not For Sale, 2017.