New Report Reveals Children Living As Modern Slaves


For the first time, The International Labour Organization (ILO) has collaborated with the Walk Free Foundation, producing a report entitled “The 2017 Global Estimates of Modern Slavery.” The report defines slavery as a condition when “a person is being exploited or forced…cannot refuse or leave because of threats, violence, coercion, deception, and/or abuse of power,” and estimates that in 2016 alone nearly 40 million people were victims. This includes forced labour exploitation, forced marriage, forced sexual exploitation and state-imposed forced labour.

Modern slavery has been difficult to monitor and measure as different countries and organisations define ‘slavery’ differently. For example, unforced sex work has often been lumped in with slavery, ignoring the choice of the individual. Amnesty International made the controversial decision earlier this year to recognise that not all sex work is slavery and that it is important to distinguish voluntary involvement.

The report identified women and children as the most vulnerable groups, represented heavily in forced marriage and sexual exploitation. Seventy-one percent of those forced into modern slavery are women; one in four are children. Children make up 37 percent of forced marriages and 20 percent of sexual exploit assault victims, making them a primary concern for many international organisations, including the U.N.

Along with “The 2017 Global Estimates of Modern Slavery” the ILO also published “Global Estimates of Child Labour,” which has been praised for being the most thorough. For the first time, the quadrennial report covers all world regions, using data from nearly 70 percent of children worldwide ages 5 to 17. The ILO report estimates that 153 million children globally are involved in child labour, with 73 million involved in work directly endangering their health and safety.

Together these two reports urge international agencies to work together to recognise the devastation of modern slavery on the world’s most vulnerable and innocent population. Target 8.7 of The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) identifies a set 17 goals and 169 targets for the development of global human rights by 2030. It calls for nations to work together and to “take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers.” Africa has the highest rate of modern slavery: 7.6 victims for every 1,000 people, with 20 percent of the continent’s children in forced labour. Hopefully, these reports will make target 8.7 a priority for the global community.