Report: Profits and Poverty: The Economics of Forced Labour

Report: Profits and Poverty: The Economics of Forced Labour
ILO – Special Action Programme to Combat Forced Labour (SAP-FL); Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work Branch (FPRW)
20 May 2014 66 pages
ILO’s Director-General urges immediate action to eradicate forced labour


The publication of the new ILO report “Profits and Poverty: The Economics of Forced Labour” is significant because it takes our understanding of trafficking, forced labour and slavery to a new level.

The report builds on earlier ILO studies on the extent, the cost and profits from forced labour and human trafficking.

But this report is different: it looks at both the supply and the demand side of forced labour, and for the first time provides solid evidence for a correlation between forced labour and poverty.

What is more, it provides startling new estimates of the illegal profits generated through the use of forced labour in various economic sectors and industries, and in commercial sexual exploitation.

These new estimates show that progress is being made. State-imposed forced labour is declining in importance. Of course, we must remain vigilant to prevent that type of exploitation from resurging.

But we must also now turn our attention to understanding what continues to drive forced labour and trafficking in the private sector.

In order to move forward in this fight, we need to look at the socio-economic factors that make people vulnerable to forced labour.
– We need to understand the role of supply and demand, and how some unscrupulous employers can still reap huge profits by underpaying, or not paying workers at all.
– We need to strengthen social protection floors to prevent households from sliding into the poverty that pushes people into forced labour.
– We need to improve levels of education and literacy so that household decision-makers can understand their own vulnerability to forced labour and know their rights as workers.
– We need to address the fact that more than half of all of the victims are women and girls, primarily in commercial sexual exploitation, and we need to reduce the vulnerability of men and boys as well to forced labour in other sectors.
– And finally, we need to examine how the movement of people either within or across international borders contributes to forced labour and build and consolidate a rights-based approach to migration…