Skip to content

Slaves of the Third Millennium

Millions Caught in Web of Human Trafficking

GENEVA, JULY 24, 2005 (Zenit) - The plight of an estimated 12.3 million people trapped in forced labor around the world was analyzed at the annual conference of the 178-member International Labor Organization. The ILO meeting, held May 31-June 16 at the organization's headquarters in Geneva, dedicated the June 8 session to discuss a report prepared on the issue.

During the May 11 release of the text of the report, titled "A Global Alliance Against Forced Labor," ILO Director-General Juan Somavia called such labor "a social evil which has no place in the modern world." He added: "To achieve a fair globalization and decent work for all, it is imperative to eradicate forced labor."

The report calculates that at least 2.4 million people are victims of human trafficking. It also provides the first global estimate of the profits generated by the exploitation of trafficked women, children and men: $32 billion a year, or about $13,000 per victim.

The report starts by defining the concept of forced labor. It is not to be confused with poor working conditions or substandard wages. Rather, the ILO considers that two elements are involved in forced labor: the work or service is exacted under the menace of a penalty; and it is undertaken involuntarily.

The forms of forced labor vary widely. In the past, slavery or bonded labor was common, and still persists in some countries, particularly in Asia. More modern forms are often linked to migratory labor and trafficking in persons for commercial reasons, often involving women and children in activities ranging from drug dealing to begging to sexual exploitation. As well, migrant workers in the Mideast and elsewhere are often obliged to hand over identity documents and find themselves tied to one household with restricted freedom of movement.

Low estimates

Of the 12.3 million people in forced labor, 9.8 million are exploited in the private sector. Another 2.5 million are forced to work by governments or by rebel military groups.

This is the first time the ILO has made an estimate of people involved in forced labor and a part of the report is dedicated to describing the methodology used. The figure is a "minimum estimate" that probably errs on the low side, the study acknowledges.

Most of the people affected by this phenomenon are in Asia, with some 9.5 million forced laborers. Latin America and the Caribbean follows with 1.3 million. The rest are made up of 660,000 in sub-Saharan Africa; 260,000 in the Mideast and North Africa; 360,000 in industrialized countries; and 210,000 in transition countries.

A breakdown of the data shows regional differences in the composition of the type of forced labor. In Asia, Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa, the proportion of trafficked victims is under 20% of all forced labor. In industrialized countries, transition countries and the Mideast and North Africa region, however, trafficking accounts for more than 75% of forced labor.

The report noted that in practice there is frequently a mixture of human smuggling and trafficking. Many of those who end up in forced labor have migrated voluntarily and become victims on their way to or at their destination. The main types of work affected by trafficking are the sex industry, agriculture, domestic work and construction. It also occurs in the sector of restaurants and catering, as well as small sweatshop enterprises.

The ILO report further commented that while state-imposed forced labor is not the largest problem in terms of numbers, it nonetheless remains a cause for serious concern. The types of labor involve practices such as work imposed by the state for "anti-social" acts, particularly in China with its "re-education through labor" system. Official figures from the Chinese Ministry of Justice indicate that some 260,000 people were detained under this system as of early 2004.

The military regime in Myanmar is also notorious for its forced labor programs, with numerous complaints coming to the attention of the ILO. The report accused the regime of allowing a situation "where state policies permit local authorities to use and benefit from the forced labor of the poor." In Africa, the report continued, there are concerns about the possible imposition of forced labor for development purposes.

Causes and cures

The report observes that there is no unanimity over what causes forced labor. In developing countries, where in the rural sector there is forced and bonded labor, there are ongoing debates as to whether the failure of credit or financial markets, or agrarian systems and unequal power relationships, explain the persistence this type of forced work. Nor is it clear to what extent the current trend of globalization contributes to new forms of forced labor.

In developing countries, the overwhelming majority of victims of forced labor are poor. And in many cases the exaction of forced labor can be linked to a pattern of discrimination.

In recent years countries have tried to coordinate action to fight the exploitation of people. On Dec. 25, 2003, the Trafficking Protocol supplementing the U.N. Convention against Transnational Organized Crime entered into force.

At the regional level organizations such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or the Economic Community of West African States, have issued declarations and formulated plans to combat the problem.

A number of difficulties, however, have impeded efforts. Definitions of human trafficking or forced labor are often so general that prosecutors and the courts find it hard to identify these situations in practice. Also, separate laws might define forced labor, slavery and trafficking differently. And even when a country has a constitutional prohibition against such practices, it is often not supported by specific laws, making it extremely difficult to bring cases to trial.

Additionally, those victims who are illegal migrants are often reluctant to denounce forced labor practices to authorities, since they fear being deported and losing the wages due to them.

Action plan

The ILO report concludes with a series of proposals to fight forced labor. For a start, it recommends tackling the roots of the problem, which arise from causes such as discrimination, deprivation and poverty. Then it calls for remedying defects such as inadequate regulation and weak or nonexistent labor inspections. As well, it urges the adoption of clear legislation and the delegation of real power to law enforcement agents.

Another recommendation is improving coordination, with the forming of a global alliance against forced labor, between organizations of employers and workers, government agencies, and other international bodies.

The report also urges countries to put in place comprehensive rehabilitation programs to support the victims of forced labor. Without this help, it warns, the freed victims might fall back into further situations of forced labor.


Catholic Online CA, US
Catholic Online - Publisher, 661 869-1000



Human, Slaves, trafficing, Labor, Forced, Children, Women, Men

More Catholic PRWire

Showing 1 - 50 of 4,718

A Recession Antidote
Randy Hain

Monaco & The Vatican: Monaco's Grace Kelly Exhibit to Rome--A Review of Monegasque-Holy See Diplomatic History
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.

The Why of Jesus' Death: A Pauline Perspective
Jerom Paul

A Royal Betrayal: Catholic Monaco Liberalizes Abortion
Dna. Maria St.Catherine De Grace Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.

Embrace every moment as sacred time
Mary Regina Morrell

My Dad
JoMarie Grinkiewicz

Letting go is simple wisdom with divine potential
Mary Regina Morrell

Father Lombardi's Address on Catholic Media
Catholic Online

Pope's Words to Pontifical Latin American College
Catholic Online

Prelate: Genetics Needs a Conscience
Catholic Online

State Aid for Catholic Schools: Help or Hindrance?
Catholic Online

Scorsese Planning Movie on Japanese Martyrs
Catholic Online

2 Nuns Kidnapped in Kenya Set Free
Catholic Online

Holy See-Israel Negotiation Moves Forward
Catholic Online

Franchising to Evangelize
Catholic Online

Catholics Decry Anti-Christianity in Israel
Catholic Online

Pope and Gordon Brown Meet About Development Aid
Catholic Online

Pontiff Backs Latin America's Continental Mission
Catholic Online

Cardinal Warns Against Anti-Catholic Education
Catholic Online

Full Circle
Robert Gieb

Three words to a deeper faith
Paul Sposite

Relections for Lent 2009
chris anthony

Wisdom lies beyond the surface of life
Mary Regina Morrell

World Food Program Director on Lent
Catholic Online

Moral Clarity

Pope's Lenten Message for 2009
Catholic Online

A Prayer for Monaco: Remembering the Faith Legacy of Prince Rainier III & Princess Grace and Contemplating the Moral Challenges of Prince Albert II
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe

Keeping a Lid on Permissiveness
Sally Connolly

Glimpse of Me
Sarah Reinhard

The 3 stages of life
Michele Szekely

Sex and the Married Woman
Cheryl Dickow

A Catholic Woman Returns to the Church
Cheryl Dickow

Modernity & Morality
Dan Shea

Just a Minute
Sarah Reinhard

Catholic identity ... triumphant reemergence!
Hugh McNichol

Edging God Out
Paul Sposite

Burying a St. Joseph Statue
Cheryl Dickow

George Bush Speaks on Papal Visit
Catholic Online

Sometimes moving forward means moving the canoe
Mary Regina Morrell

Action Changes Things: Teaching our Kids about Community Service
Lisa Hendey

Easter... A Way of Life
Paul Spoisite

Papal initiative...peace and harmony!
Hugh McNichol

Proclaim the mysteries of the Resurrection!
Hugh McNichol

Jerusalem Patriarch's Easter Message
Catholic Online

Good Friday Sermon of Father Cantalamessa
Catholic Online

Papal Address at the End of the Way of the Cross
Catholic Online

Cardinal Zen's Meditations for Via Crucis
Catholic Online

Interview With Vatican Aide on Jewish-Catholic Relations
Catholic Online

Pope Benedict XVI On the Easter Triduum
Catholic Online

Holy Saturday...anticipation!
Hugh McNichol

Never Miss any Updates!

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers.

Learn about Catholic world

Catholic Online
Inform - Inspire - Ignite

Catholic Online Saints
Your saints explained

Catholic Online Prayers
Prayers for every need

Catholic Online Bible
Complete bible online

Catholic Online News
Your news Catholic eye

Daily Reading
Today's bible reading

Lent / Easter
Death & resurrection of Jesus

Advent / Christmas
Birth of Jesus

Rest of Catholic Online
All Catholic world we offer

Products and services we offer

Catholic Online Shopping
Catholic medals, gifts & books

The California Network
Inspiring streaming service

Advertise on Catholic Online
Your ads on

Catholic Online Email
Email with Catholic feel

Catholic Online Singles
Safe, secure Catholic dating

The California Studios
World-class post production service

Learn the Catholic way

Catholic Online School
Free Catholic education for all

Student Classes
K-12 & Adult Education Classes

School Teachers
Teacher lesson plans & resources

Support Free Education
Tax deductible support Free education

Connect with us online

Catholic Online on Facebook
Catholic social network

Catholic Online on Twitter
Catholic Tweets

Catholic Online on YouTube
Enjoy our videos

Catholic Online on Instagram
Shared Catholic moments

Catholic Online on Pinterest
Catholic ideas style inspiration

Catholic Online Logo

Copyright 2018 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2018 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.