Slavery in the world – in numbers

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Although slavery is illegal in all countries, today there are more slaves in the world than there has ever been.

Slavery can be found in every country in the world, where it affects the most vulnerable people.

A few numbers from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to get a clearer picture:

  • Almost 21 million people are victims of forced labour – 11.4 million women and girls and 9.5 million men and boys.
  • Almost 19 million victims are exploited by private individuals or enterprises and over 2 million by the state or rebel groups.
  • Of those exploited by individuals or enterprises, 4.5 million are victims of forced sexual exploitation.
  • Forced labour in the private economy generates US$ 150 billion in illegal profits per year.
  • Domestic work, agriculture, construction, manufacturing and entertainment are among the sectors most concerned.
  • Migrant workers and indigenous people are particularly vulnerable to forced labour.


Child Labour Dahka
Child Labour Dahka, Bangladesh Image @

These numbers call for urgent action. International and national laws are becoming increasingly vigilant and holistic in the way modern slavery is tackled, from mobilising all the main actors such as states and businesses, to improving the way victims can be spotted and taken care of by the judiciary systems.

What these numbers call for is also everyone’s vigilance. The numbers are huge, and the scourge of modern slavery doesn’t spare any country or any sector. It is happening close to us, yet we don’t see it. These numbers call for opening our eyes to potential abuses cases, for understanding how what we consume is made, for acting with and inspiring human dignity in every aspect of our lives, at work or at home, and for supporting the most vulnerable.

This is why businesses can be so key in eliminating modern slavery. They can reach globally through their supply chain, inspire and set a level-playing field for best practices and mobilise their workforce and network against slavery.

From states to multinationals, from suppliers to employees, modern slavery is everyone’s business.