New Report Finds Forced Labor in the Private Economy “Three Times More Profitable” than Previously Estimated

Stop Human Trafficking The International Labour Organization (ILO) released this week a new report that explores the economics of forced labor, including human trafficking and “modern forms of slavery.” The report, “Profits and Poverty: The Economics of Forced Labor” presents “startling new estimates of the illegal profits generated through forced labor” and finds “solid evidence for a correlation between forced labor and poverty.”

New ILO data on human trafficking finds that forced labor in the private economy generates about three times more illegal profits per year than economists had previously estimated. According to the report’s press release, “two thirds of the estimated total of US$ 150 billion, or US$ 99 billion, came from commercial sexual exploitation, while another US$ 51 billion resulted from forced economic exploitation, including domestic work, agriculture and other economic activities.”

While the “employers” of forced labor and human trafficking operations may reap huge profits, the victims of this phenomenon suffer serious losses. The ILO reports that “people in forced labour are often caught in a vicious cycle that condemns them to endless poverty. They may suffer personal trauma that will require years to overcome as they try to rebuild their lives.”

The total population of victims of forced labor is now estimated around 21 million, with women and children making up more than half of that number. The estimates indicate that women and children are found “primarily in commercial sexual exploitation and domestic work, while men and boys [are] primarily found in forced economic exploitation in agriculture, construction, and mining.”

This highlights the need to shift the focus of combating forced labor from the public (state) sector to the private realm. ILO Director-General Guy Ryder commented that forced labor in the private sector is “bad for [legitimate] business and development and especially for its victims” and that it is time to add a “new urgency to our efforts to eradicate this fundamentally evil, but hugely profitable practice as soon as possible.”

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