A new report from the United Nations found that approximately fifty million people around the world are trapped in forced labor or forced marriage.
The report, entitled “Global Estimates of Modern Slavery,” was published by the International Labour Organization and International Organization for Migration — two U.N. agencies — as well as the international human rights group Walk Free.
“It is shocking that the situation of modern slavery is not improving,” said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder. “We know what needs to be done, and we know it can be done. Effective national policies and regulation are fundamental.”
The organizations say the number of people in such dire situations has jumped 25% from the previous report five years ago. The issue is not limited to the developing world: More than half of all forced labor and a quarter of all forced marriages occur in upper-middle-income or high-income countries.
Last year, according to the report, an estimated 22 million people were living in forced marriage, a 6.6 million increase over 2016 global estimates. The U.N. notes that the true number is likely far greater, particularly among marriages involving children ages 16 and younger, because estimates are based on a narrow definition of forced marriage that excludes some child marriages.
The report also cites concerns about compulsory prison labor in countries such as the United States and discussed possible forced labor of Muslim minorities in parts of China.
Children account for one out of five people in forced labor, with more than half of them stuck in commercial sexual exploitation, the report said.
The report also found that migrant workers are over three times more likely to be in forced labor than other adult workers. “This report underscores the urgency of ensuring that all migration is safe, orderly, and regular,” said IOM Director-General António Vitorino.
Among other measures, the report recommends “improving and enforcing laws and labour inspections; ending State-imposed forced labour; stronger measures to combat forced labour and trafficking; extending social protection, and strengthening legal protections, including raising the legal age of marriage to 18,” writes the U.N.