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Report: 40 million people living in modern slavery

Chase Winter
September 19, 2017

More than 40 million people were living in modern slavery last year, according to a new report. More than 25 million people were forced into labor and another 15 million people were living in forced marriages.

Brasilien Sklavenarbeit - Symbolbild
Image: Getty Images/M. Tama

More than 40 million people around the world were trapped in modern day slavery last year, including forced labor and forced marriages, according to a new study published Tuesday.

The study by the International Labor Organization (ILO), the Walk Free Foundation, in partnership with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said that women and children accounted for 71 percent of those in modern slavery.

An estimated 16 of 25 million people in forced labor were in the private sector, including in domestic work, construction, agriculture and fishing. The products and services produced by forced labor often end up appearing in the market through "seem­ingly legitimate commercial channels," they said.

"Forced laborers produced some of the food we eat and the clothes we wear, and they have cleaned the build­ings in which many of us live or work," the report said.

Debt bondage accounted for nearly half of those forced into labor, while nearly 4 million people were forced to work by state authorities.

Slavery and forced marriages were most prominent in Africa and the Asia-Pacific region. Lack of data for Arab countries means that the number of those trapped in slavery could be much higher in those regions.

Read: Why modern slavery is widespread in Asia

Ghana's hidden child slaves

The report noted the large role of migration and human trafficking in modern slavery, calling for improved migration policies to protect victims.

The findings take into account an estimated 15 million forced marriages, nearly a third of which were children. Nearly all of forced marriages involved women and girls, many who can be subjected to rape, forced domestic work and even be traded and sold.

Four million adults, as well as 1 million children, were victims of forced sexual exploitation.

Separately, the ILO released a report that said 152 million children between the ages of 5 and 17 were victims of child labor. Of them, about one-third were not in education, while another 38 percent were working under hazardous conditions.