Modern Slavery Spreading


At least 12.3 million people worldwide work as slaves, according to a report issued May 11 by the International Labor Organization, a department of the United Nations. The report, “A Global Alliance Against Forced Labor,” estimated that 2.5 million people were in forced labor due to cross-border trafficking, and 1.2 million of them were forced into sex trade. Profit from trafficked forced labor is estimated at $32 billion, and the profit from forced commercial sexual exploitation is estimated at an astonishing $27.8 billion a year.

Lee Swepston, an author of the report, said that the trafficking of workers is a growing problem. “The 12.3 million figure is a minimum,” he said. “It’s a low figure intentionally. We think it’s probably higher.”

The report (New York Times, May 12) did offer up general suggestions to reduce the trafficking, such as increasing law enforcement and reducing poverty. However, with a problem of this magnitude, with its global networks and cross-border trafficking, it is unlikely that the UN or any single government agency will actually have much success in reducing the spread of modern slavery.