NewsGlobal Forced Labor Profits Hit $236 Billion, EU Moves to Ban Products

Global Forced Labor Profits Hit $236 Billion, EU Moves to Ban Products

Forced labor occurs, among others, in agriculture. The photo shows Syrian refugees during fieldwork in Turkey, 2016.
Forced labor occurs, among others, in agriculture. The photo shows Syrian refugees during fieldwork in Turkey, 2016.
Images source: © NurPhoto via Getty Images | Diego Cupolo

4:44 PM EDT, March 19, 2024

Over the past decade, profits from forced labor globally have soared to $236 billion annually, a report from the International Labour Organization (ILO) revealed on Tuesday. This marks a staggering 37 percent increase from ten years prior, with the practice particularly rampant in Asia.
According to the ILO, approximately 27.6 million people across the globe were forced into labor in 2021, the latest year for which data is available. The number of forced laborers has risen by 10 percent over the past five years, with the Asia-Pacific region accounting for more than half of this demographic. The ILO elaborated that forced labor encompasses slavery, serfdom, and various forms of compelled begging, noting that a single victim can generate around $10,000 in profit annually for their exploiters – a significant jump from just over $8,000 a decade ago.
Of these millions ensnared in forced labor, about 6.3 million are trapped in the sex industry, which astonishingly generates three-fourths of the total profits, amounting to roughly $173 billion each year. Sadly, women represent 80 percent of these victims, with children making up over 25 percent.
### EU on the Verge of Implementing a Ban
In a significant move, at the start of March, the EU Council and the European Parliament reached a tentative agreement on banning the entry of products into the European single market that are made through forced labor.
"It is appalling that slavery and forced labor are still present in our world today," expressed Belgian Minister of Economy and Employment Pierre-Yves Dermagne, highlighting the urgency to dismantle the business models of companies profiting from worker exploitation. "This dire crime must be eradicated, and a crucial step towards that goal is to ensure these companies' products find no market in the EU, regardless of where they were manufactured," added Dermagne, whose country is currently leading the EU Council.
To facilitate this new regulation, the European Commission has been tasked with creating a database filled with verified and up-to-date information on forced labor risks, including reports from international entities. This database will aid the Commission and national authorities in identifying potential regulation breaches.
The proposed ban targets goods produced outside the EU using forced labor, as well as products crafted within the EU from parts made under such conditions abroad.
The agreement awaits formal endorsement by the European Parliament and the EU Council before it becomes official.
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