The Rise of Modern Slavery

Most news about human trafficking focuses on sex trafficking, but that’s only one aspect of human trafficking. Rarely is there news coverage or articles written about human slavery. Yet, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO) and others, forced labor and marriage incidents have increased significantly over the past five years, affecting an estimated 50 million children, men, and women globally.

Experts attribute the increase to the COVID-19 pandemic, armed conflicts, and climate change, contributing to more people living in extreme poverty and being forced to migrate.


Human Trafficking Definition

The United Nations defines human trafficking as:

“The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring 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.”

Forced labor and marriage fall under the definition of human trafficking because they impact people who “cannot refuse or cannot leave because of threats, violence, deception, abuse of power or other forms of coercion.”


Forced Labor

According to the US Department of State, forced labor, also known as involuntary servitude, is the most critical sector of trafficking in the world. However, two major issues make it challenging to combat labor trafficking: the complexity of the supply and demand chain and the local and national governments that are complicit.

Forced labor exploits victims in various ways. For example, unpaid or slightly paid workers sew garments for major fashion brands and pick coffee and cocoa beans for profit-making enterprises.

In addition, many living in abject poverty place a child with an adoption agency because they cannot afford their care. The child is then sold to a sweatshop owner who forces the child to work without pay while providing minimal food and no education.

Forced labor is also prevalent in other industries, like domestic servitude, manufacturing, hospitality, construction, hair and nail salons, janitorial services, and healthcare.


Forced Marriage

Although exact numbers are nearly impossible to obtain, it’s estimated that more than 20 million people were in forced marriages in 2021. Many more likely exist, especially involving children 16 and younger. Because a child cannot legally consent to marriage, all child marriages are considered forced marriages. An additional type of forced marriage includes “mail-order” brides who believe they are moving to a new country for marriage but instead are enslaved. 

Long-established cultural beliefs and patriarchal systems and practices make the issue of forced marriage complex. According to the United Nations, many forced marriages are driven by family pressure. Although forced marriages are more prevalent in Asia, the Pacific, and the Arab States, they occur globally.


Migrants Are More Susceptible to Forced Labor

According to the most recent ILO report, migrant adult workers are more than three times more likely to be in forced labor than non-migrant adult workers. Migrants fleeing conflict and violence, child migrants traveling without family, and undocumented migrants are at a higher risk for forced labour. 

Female and male adult migrants are vulnerable to various types of abuse. For example, women experience higher rates of modern slavery in domestic work, the sex industry, and forced marriage. At the same time, male migrants are more likely to be exploited through forced labour in the construction and manufacturing sectors.


How Can We End Modern Slavery?

It might seem that ending modern slavery is an impossible task. While it is certainly extremely challenging, there are steps that can be taken to decrease modern slavery. For example, it’s imperative that laws and labor inspections be improved and enforced and that stronger measures are taken to combat forced labor and trafficking in business supply chains. In addition, more robust legal protections need to be taken, like raising the legal age of marriage and protecting migrant workers.


Help Us Provide Hope 

No one person can accomplish the movement to abolish forced labor, but together, we can gain traction. Contributions to organizations like The Orphan’s Hands help our committed staff and volunteers work 365 days a year to fight human trafficking and support survivors. Every donation can change the life of someone victimized by human trafficking. No matter the size, every effort can deliver help and hope to the most vulnerable. 

The generosity of our supporters has helped us provide a safe life for people once trapped in a life of slavery and forced marriage, as well as shelter, food, and medical care for those in need. Together, we can change and save lives!