Category Archives: Slavery, Forced Labor

The International Labor Organization estimates that 40 million people are victims of modern slavery. This includes 25 million people in forced labor and 15 million people in forced marriage. This means that there are 5.4 victims of modern slavery for every thousand people in the world, about 0.5 percent (one half of one percent). There were 5.9 adult victims of modern slavery for every 1,000 adults in the world and 4.4 child victims for every 1,000 children in the world.

Those in forced labor were being forced to work under threat or coercion as domestic workers, on construction sites, in clandestine factories, on farms and fishing boats, in other sectors, and in the sex industry. They were forced to work by private individuals and groups or by state authorities. In many cases, the products they made and the services they provided ended up in seemingly legitimate commercial channels.

Most victims of forced labor suffered multiple forms of coercion from employers or recruiters as a way of preventing them from being able to leave the situation. Nearly one-quarter of victims (24 per cent) had their wages withheld or were prevented from leaving by threats of non-payment of due wages. This was followed by threats of violence (17 per cent), acts of physical violence (16 per cent), and threats against family (12 per cent). For women, 7 per cent of victims reported acts of sexual violence.

Those in forced marriage were living in a forced marriage to which they had not consented. That is, they were enduring a situation that involved having lost their sexual autonomy and often involved providing labor under the guise of “marriage”.

Women and girls are disproportionately affected by modern slavery, accounting for 28.7 million, or 71 per cent of the overall total. Women and girls represent 99 per cent of victims of forced labor in the commercial sex industry and 58 per cent in other sectors, 40 per cent of victims of forced labor imposed by state authorities, and 84 per cent of victims of forced marriages.

One in four victims of modern slavery were children. Some 37 per cent (5.7 million) of those forced to marry were children. Children represented 18 per cent of those subjected to forced labor exploitation and 7 per cent of people forced to work by state authorities. Children who were in commercial sexual exploitation (where the victim is a child, there is no requirement of force) represented 21 per cent of total victims in this category of abuse.

(All of the above taken from ILO 2017.)

Cruel Outcomes: How weak corporate governance and internal controls in the palm oil industry allow abuse of foreign and local workers

Liberty Shared September 2020

This document does not seek to revisit or summarize previous
research and conclusions about abuse suffered by migrant workers
entering Malaysia to work on palm oil plantations. There are
many excellent reports and materials available that examine the
abuse of workers and the failures of companies to improve their
plantation management practices, such as Amnesty International’s
Trapped: The Exploitation of Migrant Workers in Malaysia, (2010);
Business and Human Rights S.I (; Fair Labour
Association’s Mapping Study on Seasonal Agriculture Workers and
Worker Feedback and Grievance Mechanisms in the Agricultural
Sector, (2018); Suisse Solidar’s Exploited and Illegalized: The Lives
of Palm Oil Migrant Workers in Sabah, (2019), and Earthworm
Foundation’s Insights Into Recruitment Costs and Practices Amongst
Small-Medium Sized Companies In The Palm Oil Industry In
Peninsular Malaysia, (2019).

This document argues that, firstly, despite over a decade of
reporting and research on abusive recruitment practices and
abusive working conditions on plantations and despite the
representations and statements set out in the increasingly
prolific human rights and sustainability corporate disclosure,
it is time to accept that a substantial proportion of the millions
of individuals arriving to offer their labour to plantations,
of whatever size, do so in a state of vulnerability caused
by the manner of their recruitment. Whether due to debt
arrangements, poverty, illegal status or deception, the palm oil
industry, particularly those who lead the industry, should and
must seek to alleviate and resolve these vulnerabilities and not
exacerbate and capitalize on them by allowing vulnerability to
become a lever for coercive and abusive labor management
practices by plantations managers, supervisors and forepeople.
Second, it seems clear that the ongoing industry-wide failure to
prevent abusive and coercive practices on plantations is caused
by deep structural issues grounded in a long history of terrible
labor practices begun in the industrial rubber agricultural
sector during the British administration of Malaya and largely
continued since then to today.

Third, evidence of the comprehensive and far-reaching work
needed to build and implement a governance framework to
remedy and rectify this situation, in other words to create
businesses and a business-operating environment that actually
offers vulnerable workers support to reduce and resolve their
vulnerabilities, rather than exploit them, appears sorely lacking.

Fourth, the implementation of corporate sustainability and
ethical practices is a desired end state, one that will be dynamic
and active. However, there is no chance at all of achieving the
creation of an organization that is sensitive to the wider social
and environmental issues without that company having robust,
sufficient and well implemented corporate governance, risk
management and internal controls (together organizational
corporate governance and controls). From the examination of
annual reports and sustainability statements, and considering
what has been learned from workers themselves, it is clear
that design and implementation of corporate governance,
risk management and internal controls and the design and
implementation of a sustainability agenda remain two parallel
lines of management activity. Never meeting, the development
of sustainability practices and the development of organizational
corporate governance and controls are largely considered
separately. This is very convenient for many corporations and
boards of directors as the arrangements keep the objectives of
sustainable practices away from corporate governance, which
has regulatory and legal requirements, and therefore avoids
creating joint and several obligations and liability on the board of
directors and senior executives.

Finally, it is time that the vast cornucopia of public disclosure
created in the name of sustainable and ethical practices is linked
clearly and transparently to implemented underlying organizational
corporate governance, risk management and internal controls and
the underlying laws and regulations that require such organizational
corporate governance and controls. The formulation and publication
of these policies, as expensive as the process of creation is, must
lead to identifiable ongoing, consistent and monitored corporate
procedures and practices that are enforced by the business – it is
these that must be clearly disclosed on a regular basis.

See full report (40 page PDF file)

Slavery, Forced Labor 2020

Supreme Court weighs child-slavery case against Nestlé USA, Cargill Peter Whoriskey Washington Post December 1, 2020
Despite years of promises by the chocolate industry, child labor remains widespread on cocoa farms.

Apple is lobbying against a bill aimed at stopping forced labor in China Reed Albergotti Washington Post November 20, 2020
Apple wants to water down key provisions of the bill, which would hold U.S. companies accountable for using Uighur forced labor, according to two congressional staffers.

A trafficked survivor reunites with family in Vietnam. Credit: Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation

Modern slavery in Asia Pacific fueled by widespread poverty, migration and weak governance – Part 1 Neena Bhandari Inter Press Service May 15, 2020

Forced marriage, organ trafficking rife in Asia Pacific – Part 2 Neena Bhandari Inter Press Service May 15, 2020

Slavery, Forced Labor 2019

29 rescued from forced labor slavery Justice Ventures International May 14, 2019

Behind illicit massage parlors lie a vast crime network and modern indentured servitude Nicholas Kulish, Frances Robles and Patricia Mazzei New York Times March 2, 2019

Slavery is not a thing of the past, it still exists today affecting millions Shannon Scribner Inter Press Service February 28, 2019

Forced labor, child work, low wages: the lives of home-based garment workers in India Marjorie van Elven Fashion United February 6, 2019

Photo: Children from rural areas and disempowered homes are ideal targets for trafficking in India and elsewhere. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

Discrimination against women 2019

Women are fleeing death at home. The United States wants to keep them out. Azam Amhed New York Times August 18, 2019.
“To win asylum in the United States, applicants must show specific grounds for their persecution back home, like their race, religion, political affiliation or membership in a particular social group. Lawyers have sometimes pushed successfully for women to qualify as a social group because of the overwhelming violence they face, citing a 2014 case in which a Guatemalan woman fleeing domestic violence was found to be eligible to apply for asylum in the United States. But Mr. Sessions overruled that precedent, questioning whether women — in particular, women fleeing domestic violence — can be members of a social group. The decision challenged what had become common practice in asylum courts.”

Teenage brides trafficked to China reveal ordeal: ‘Ma, I’ve been sold’ Hannah Beech New York Times August 17, 2019

In Pakistan, a feminist hero Is under fire and on the run Jeffrey Gettleman New York Times July 23, 2019

Afghan women waiting to vote in 2009 elections.
Afghan women waiting to vote. Credit UN Photo/Eric Kanalstein. Photo ID 406878. 20/08/2009. Kabul, Afghanistan Also see Flickr.

‘Women here are very, very worried’ Susan Chira New York Times March 22, 2019
Afghan women used to be championed by almost everyone. Now they’re all but forgotten.

Many firms in developed countries, countries which have significant worker protections, contract out parts or all of their production to contractors in developing countries, where labor protections are much less. Here is an example.
Made for next to nothing. Worn by you? Elizabeth Paton New York Times February 6, 2019 br>See full report Tainted Garments. The exploitation of women and girls in India’s home-based garment sector by Siddharth Kara (60 page PDF file)

Sex trafficking is a horrible example of forced labor.
‘The Monsters are the men’: Inside a thriving sex trafficking trade in Florida Patricia Mazzei New York Times February 23, 2019
“The sweep led to criminal charges last week against several rich, prominent men, including Robert K. Kraft, the billionaire owner of the New England Patriots; John Havens, former president and chief operating officer of Citigroup; and John Childs, founder of the private equity firm J.W. Childs Associates. Beyond the lurid celebrity connection, however, lies the wretched story of women who the police believe were brought from China under false promises of new lives and legitimate spa jobs. Instead, they found themselves trapped in the austere back rooms of strip-mall brothels — trafficking victims trapped among South Florida’s rich and famous.
“I don’t believe they were told they were going to work in massage parlors seven days a week, having unprotected sex with up to 1,000 men a year,” said Sheriff William D. Snyder of Martin County, whose office opened the investigation. “

Asia’s expanding illicit market: brides Tharanga Yakupitiyage Inter Press Service January 25, 2019

She wanted to drive, so Saudi Arabia’s ruler imprisoned and tortured her Nicholas Kristof New York Times January 26, 2019 (opinion)

An 11-year-old pleaded for an abortion after she was raped. She was forced to give birth. Michael Brice-Saddler Washington Post February 28, 2019

Shedding light on forced child pregnancy and motherhood in Latin America Mariela Jara Inter Press Service January 14, 2019
Research and campaigns by women’s rights advocates are beginning to focus on the problem of Latin American girls under the age of 14 who are forced to bear the children of their rapists, with the lifelong implications that entails and without the protection of public policies guaranteeing their human rights.

Recorded increase in human trafficking, women and girls targeted Tharanga Yakupitiyage Inter Press Service January 9, 2019

Photo: Children from rural areas and disempowered homes are ideal targets for trafficking in India and elsewhere. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS See accompanying story.