(Bloomberg) -- There are ten million more people in slavery across the world today than in 2016 after the Covid-19 pandemic pulled multitudes into poverty and extreme working conditions.
The number of people in either forced labor or marriages totaled 50 million last year, the equivalent of almost one in every 150 people across the globe, according to research published Monday by the International Labour Organization, Walk Free and the International Organisation for Migration.
The pandemic and lockdowns led to a rapid deterioration of conditions for many workers, pushing them into debt bondage and in the worst cases, forced labor as extreme poverty rose for the first time in two decades. Climate change and armed conflicts have also pushed more people into uncertainty, according to the report.
The private sector accounts for 86% of this kind of slavery with more than half of all forced labor occurring in upper-middle or high-income countries. The majority of adult forced labor takes place in the services, manufacturing, construction, agriculture and domestic work sectors.
“Modern slavery is the antithesis of sustainable development. Yet, in 2022, it continues to underpin our global economy,” said Grace Forrest, founding director of Walk Free. “In a time of compounding crises, genuine political will is the key to ending these human rights abuses.”
Women and migrants face particular risks when it comes to slavery, the report said. Migrant workers are more than three times more likely to be in forced labor than those who are not, and women face a higher probability of being subjected to physical and sexual violence.
Steps that would mark significant progress toward slavery include raising the age of marriage to 18 without exception and stronger measures to combat forced labor and trafficking in supply chains, the compilers of the report said.
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