Modern Slavery

Modern slavery is forcing a person to engage in an activity that exploits him or her. Often referred to as “human trafficking,” it can include everything from sex trafficking to forced labor. It generates a ton of money—which makes it very tough to abolish.

Below are some misconceptions people have about modern slavery:

  • Modern slavery only happens in poor countries or in “sketchy” areas in the West.
  • People with questionable character are the only ones who get trapped.
  • I have never contributed to the exploitation of another person.
  • Companies will continue to exploit workers worldwide as long as they can get away with it.
  • For the most part, modern slavery is not a first-world problem.
  • It will never happen to me or any of my friends.


Types of Modern Slavery

Domestic servitude: According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), at least 67 million men and women are enslaved as domestic workers across the world, not including children. It is believed that girls under the age of 16 work in domestic service more than any other category of child labor. Domestic servitude becomes a crime when the worker is not free to leave his or her employer and is abused and underpaid. Domestic workers, especially women, experience abuse, harassment, exploitation and sexual/gender-based violence.

In addition to domestic servitude, there are several other types of slavery that fall under the modern slavery umbrella:

Bonded labor or debt bondage: In this situation, traffickers often impose a bond or debt and make it difficult, if not impossible, to pay it off. In some countries, there are millions of trafficking victims working to pay off their ancestors’ debts.

Forced labor: Also referred to as labor trafficking, forced labor encompasses a range of activities including recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing, or obtaining a person for compelled labor through the use of force, physical threats, psychological coercion, abuse of the legal process, deception or fraud. Migrants are vulnerable to this form of modern slavery, and it can involve children. Unfortunately, children are not given the option of leaving.

Child labor: According to the International Labor Association, child labor refers to work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to their physical and mental development. In fact, almost half of the children in this category work in hazardous conditions such as mines.

Sex trafficking: Involves a commercial sex act, such as prostitution, as the result of force, threats of force, fraud or coercion. Perpetrators involved in recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing, obtaining, patronizing or soliciting a person for that purpose are guilty of sex trafficking. This form of modern slavery often involves children under the age of 18. The use of children in the commercial sex industry is prohibited under U.S. law and by statute in most countries.

Unlawful recruitment and use of child soldiers: Child soldiering involves the unlawful recruitment and use of children—through force, fraud or coercion—by armed forces as combatants or other forms of labor. Many children are forced to be used in this way; others are made to work as porters, cooks, guards, servants, messengers or spies. Young girls may be forced to “marry” or be raped by commanders and male combatants. Both male and female child soldiers are often sexually abused or exploited by armed groups.

Forced marriage: This is a marriage where one or both people do not consent to the marriage, and pressure or abuse is used. While men and boys can be victims of forced marriage, most are women and girls. According to the 2018 Global Slavery Index, more than one-third of victims are under 18 years of age at the time of the marriage. Forced marriage is highest in Africa.

Organ trafficking: This is a form of widespread organized crime where inner organs are illegally obtained and traded for transplantation. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the illegal organ trade comprises about 10% of global transplant activity. The black market organ trade has been documented in India, Pakistan, Kosovo and the Philippines. Developed countries such as the U.S., Canada, Australia and the U.K. receive organs from most of the world’s developing countries. The sale of organs is illegal in many developing countries, with the exception of Iran where paid donation is permitted but strictly regulated.

More than 40 Million People Are Enslaved

Of the 152 Million Children in Child Labor:

Goods with the most child labor listings by no. of countries:
Goods with the most forced labor listings by no. of countries:
Products of child & forced labor by no. of countries:
Sectors with highest no. of products of child & forced labor: