Still 40 million slaves worldwide

Roxanna Deleersnyder
28 November 2017
Slavery is far from belonging to the past: that is the conclusion of the latest report from the  International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Walk Free Foundation in cooperation with the International Organization for Migration (IOM). According to the study, 40 million people were still victims of modern slavery in 2016, including 25 million victims of forced labour and 15 million victims of forced marriages and prostitution.  

The current number of slaves has almost doubled compared to the previous estimation, an increase that can be explained by the fact that forced marriages have also been taken into account this time and that the organization has better figures at its disposal in general. Over the last five years, 89 million people worldwide have experienced some form of slavery. The publication of the figures coincides with the 60th anniversary of the Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery.  

The report shows that 71% of the victims are women and that slavery is most prevalent in Africa (7.6 out of 1000 inhabitants), followed by Asia and the Pacific (6.1 out of 1000 inhabitants). Anyhow, the organization states that no or too few figures were available for the Arabian countries and for North and South America, implying that the balance cannot be considered to be totally accurate.  

Private versus public sector

Although most of the cases occurred in the private sector, 4 million people were subjected to forced labour by states. In the private sector, the majority (24%) performed domestic work (including the cases of forced marriages), while 18% worked in the construction sector, 15% in industry, 11% in agriculture and fisheries and 4% in the mining industry. From the 4 million people in state-imposed forced labour, 64% were deployed for purposes of national economic development, 15% in the army, 14% carried out forced labour in prisons and 8% performed community service.  

Slavery in private sector


152 million child workers

The report was published in the context of the 72nd UN General Assembly. It was simultaneously revealed that there are still 152 million child workers worldwide. The highest numbers applied once again to Africa (20% of the total amount), followed by Asia and the Pacific (7% of the total amount). 70.9% of all child workers were employed in agriculture, 17.1% in the services sector and 11.9% in industry. These figures are radically opposed to the spirit of Sustainable Development Goal 8 (SDG8), standing for ‘honest work and economic growth’, that should be achieved worldwide by 2030. 


Child labour


ILO is an essential partner of the Belgian Development Cooperation.

Source: ILO


ILO Slavery Child labour Decent work
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About the same theme - Article 8 /7 World employment falls in 2017