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Faith  Nyasuguta 

The International Labour Organization (ILO) has sounded the alarm on the burgeoning profits derived from forced labor and sexual exploitation worldwide, revealing a staggering figure of $236 billion annually. This shocking revelation, detailed in the most recent report by the UN agency, marks a disturbing 37% increase compared to estimates from a decade ago.

The sheer scale of this illicit industry highlights the dire consequences for millions of individuals ensnared in its web. From coerced labourers deprived of their rightful wages to migrants exploited for financial gain, the scourge of forced labor perpetuates cycles of poverty and exploitation while allowing criminals to evade taxes and enrich themselves at the expense of vulnerable populations.

The ILO’s Director-General, Gilbert Houngbo, showcased the urgent need for international collaboration to combat this insidious practice. He lamented the coercion faced by victims, highlighting the deliberate withholding of wages as a common tactic used to perpetuate exploitation and erode human dignity.

Houngbo’s call for action comes amidst a disturbing trend of increasing profits and expanding victimization. The report reveals that while the number of individuals subjected to forced labor has risen to an estimated 27.6 million globally, the monetary gains extracted from each victim have also surged, contributing to the alarming rise in total profits.

The report further highlights the disproportionate impact of forced labor on vulnerable populations, with women and girls bearing the brunt of sexual exploitation. Nearly four in five victims of forced commercial sexual exploitation are women and girls, illuminating the urgent need for targeted interventions to protect and support these vulnerable populations.

Despite efforts to combat forced labor, the report reveals significant gaps in addressing this complex issue. While the Asia-Pacific region bears the highest burden of forced labor, other regions including Africa, the Americas, and Europe-Central Asia also grapple with significant prevalence rates, highlighting the need for a coordinated global response.

Of particular concern is the profitability of sexual exploitation, which accounts for nearly three-quarters of the global total profits from forced labor. This egregious form of exploitation not only inflicts immense harm on its victims but also generates substantial profits for criminal networks, further incentivizing their illicit activities.

The report also sheds light on the various sectors affected by forced labor, with industries such as agriculture, services, and domestic work all facing significant challenges. 

Gilbert Houngbo, Director General of the International Labour Organization (ILO) /AP/

Despite efforts to address forced labor in these sectors, the report stresses the need for targeted interventions and enhanced enforcement measures to combat this pervasive human rights violation.

As the world grapples with the devastating impact of forced labor, the ILO calls for a unified global response to address this urgent issue. Only through collective action and unwavering commitment can we hope to eradicate forced labor and build a future where all individuals are treated with dignity, respect, and equality.


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Faith Nyasuguta

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