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Illegal profits from forced labor increased by 37% over the last 10 years to $236 billion a year, says ILO


Forced labor in the private economy generates $236 billion in illegal profits per year, with the total amount of illegal profits coming from work up $64 billion or 37% since 2014, the International Labor Organization (ILO) said Tuesday.

“This is a dramatic increase that has been fueled by both the increase in the number of people forced into work, as well as the increase in profits generated from the exploitation of victims,” said the ILO in its report on the forced labor economy.

According to the report, traffickers and criminals are estimated to earn nearly $10,000 per victim, compared to $8,269 (adjusted for inflation) a decade ago.

“Annual illegal profits from forced labor are highest in Europe and Central Asia ($84 billion), followed by Asia and the Pacific ($62 billion), the Americas ($52 billion), Africa ($20 billion) and the Arab States ($18 billion). billion),” he said.

“When illegal profits are expressed per victim, annual illegal profits are highest in Europe and Central Asia, followed by the Arab States, the Americas, Africa and Asia and the Pacific,” adds- he.

According to the report, forced commercial sexual exploitation accounts for more than two-thirds (73%) of total illegal profits, although it only accounts for 27% of the total number of victims of forced labor in the private sector. After forced commercial sexual exploitation, the sector with the highest annual illegal profits from forced labor is industry, with $35 billion, followed by services ($20.8 billion), agriculture ($5.0 billion) and domestic work ($2.6 billion). “These illegal profits are wages that rightfully belong in the pockets of workers, but which remain in the hands of their exploiters, due to their coercive practices,” he said.

According to the ILO, 27.6 million people were subjected to forced labor every day in 2021. This figure equates to 3.5 people per thousand inhabitants worldwide. Between 2016 and 2021, the number of people subjected to forced labor increased by 2.7 million.

“People subjected to forced labor are subject to multiple forms of coercion, with deliberate and systematic withholding of their wages being among the most common,” said ILO Director-General Gilbert F. Houngbo, urging the international community to come together to take action to end forced labor. this injustice, safeguard the rights of workers and uphold the principles of fairness and equality for all.

The report highlights the urgent need to invest in enforcement measures to stem illegal profit flows and hold perpetrators to account. It recommends strengthening legal frameworks, providing training for law enforcement officials, expanding labor inspection to high-risk sectors, and improving coordination between labor law enforcement and criminal law enforcement.

“Yet forced labor cannot be ended through law enforcement alone; law enforcement measures must be part of a comprehensive approach that prioritizes addressing root causes and protecting victims,” he adds.


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