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50 million in modern slavery — UN

September 12, 2022

According to a report by two UN agencies, the number of people in forced labor or marriages increased by 10 million between 2016 and 2021. Climate change and the coronavirus pandemic are contributing factors.

A man in a cage
A UN report said that there were around 50 million people in 'modern slavery' in 2021Image: Panthermedia/imago images

Some 50 million people are trapped in forced labor or forced marriage, a United Nations study published on Monday found.

The study, by two UN agencies and the Walk Free Foundation, found that the amount of those trapped in modern slavery has increased in recent years.

What did the report say?

The study found that at the end of last year, 28 million people were in forced labor. Some 22 million were living in forced marriages.

The number of people trapped in forced labor or marriage increased by 10 million between 2016 and 2021.

"It is shocking that the situation of modern slavery is not improving," the UN's labor agency (ILO) head Guy Ryder said in a statement.

"Nothing can justify the persistence of this fundamental abuse of human rights."

The UN had set a goal to eradicate all forms of modern slavery by 2030.

Pandemic and climate change contributing factors

The study found that the coronavirus pandemic has heightened the risk of slavery.

The effects of climate change and armed conflicts have also contributed to "unprecedented disruption to employment and education, increases in extreme poverty and forced and unsafe migration."

The report said that one out of five people trapped in forced labor are children, with more than half of them being sexually exploited.

Migrant workers are more than three times likely to be in forced labor than non-migrant adult workers, the study found.

"This report underscores the urgency of ensuring that all migration is safe, orderly, and regular," UN migration agency (IOM) head Antonio Vitorino.

The report also said that 14% of those in forced labor were doing work imposed by state authorities, and voiced concerns about compulsory prison labor in countries such as the United States. It also discussed possible forced labor in internment camps in China's Xinjiang region.

sdi/aw (AFP, Reuters, dpa)