More than 40 million people were estimated to be victims of modern slavery in 2016 — and one in four of those were children.
Those are the findings of a new report produced by the International Labor Organization (ILO), a U.N. agency focusing on labor rights, and the Walk Free Foundation, an international NGO working to end modern slavery.
The report estimates that last year, 25 million people were in forced labor — made to work under threat or coercion — and 15 million people were in forced marriage.
It’s impossible to know exactly how many people are living in modern slavery, and different studies have produced different estimates. One reason is that modern slavery is a hidden crime that’s difficult to identify. Another is that different studies use different definitions of slavery, with some including forced marriage, for example, and others not.
In the past, two of the most widely quoted figures have been those produced separately by the ILO and the Walk Free Foundation. But this report, called The 2017 Global Estimates of Modern Slavery, marks the first time the ILO and the Walk Free Foundation have collaborated to produce worldwide slavery figures.
Both organizations describe the report as giving the most reliable slavery figures to date, and the researchers say the numbers show that much work is needed to combat the problem.
According to the report, women and girls accounted for 71 percent of slavery victims, including 99 percent of those in the commercial sex industry and 84 percent of victims of forced marriages.
Children made up around 37 percent of those forced to marry, as well as 18 percent of forced labor victims and 21 percent of victims of sexual exploitation.
he report defines modern slavery as situations of exploitation that a person can’t refuse or leave because of threats, violence, coercion or deception — which includes forced labor, debt bondage, forced marriage and human trafficking.
It notes that the average length of time victims were in forced labor ranged from a few days in some forms of state-imposed forced labor, to nearly two years for forced sexual exploitation.
An estimated 4.1 million people are victims of forced labor imposed by state authorities. They include people made by their state authorities to participate in agriculture or construction work to boost economic development, young military conscripts forced to perform non-military work, and prisoners forced to work without consent at private prisons.