Facts about Slavery

Slavery is an issue as old as time and will continue to exist for as long as enslavers get away with it without consequences. Bringing justice to the victims of slavery, however, is not an easy task. Information regarding human trafficking and all types of forced labor is scarce even today. This makes it very difficult to gather data that allows for effective policymaking. But, the first step to solving every problem is to be informed about it, no matter how poor the available information on it is. Below we present you with a list modern day slavery facts:


  • Slavery was abolished in most countries around the world in the 1850s, with Brazil being the last country to abandon the trade in 1888. Yet, it still persists under different forms and names.
  • Modern day slavery was defined by the US Government on its 2015 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report as: “The act of recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing, or obtaining a person for compelled labor or commercial sex acts through the use of force, fraud, or coercion”.
  • Modern slavery is also sometimes referred to as “forced labor”, “involuntary servitude” and “human trafficking”, with the latter placing the focus on the transaction rather than the work trafficking victims have to do after they are traded.

Child soldiers in the Omo River Valley, in Africa - Photo Credit: Wikipedia


Shown below are different forms of modern slavery, as described by the 2015 TIP report from the US Government and this article from The Guardian:

  • Sex trafficking: Takes place when an adult engages in commercial sex acts, such as prostitution, as a consequence of violence, threats of violence, coercion, fraud, etc. It is worth noting that even if said adult originally consented to participate in prostitution, the act of being held against their will through psychological manipulation or physical force is still sex trafficking.
  • Child sex trafficking: Takes place when a person under 18 years old is recruited, enticed, transported or maintained to perform commercial sex acts. In cases of child sex trafficking is not necessary to prove force, coercion or any other type of manipulation, as any child who is prostituted is a victim of sex trafficking. This form of slavery leaves deep psychological marks in its victims, it also exposes them to AIDS and other illnesses, drug addiction, unwanted pregnancies and more.
  • Forced labor: It is the second most common form of modern slavery and takes place when someone uses psychological or physical coercion to compel another person to work. Migrants are especially susceptible to this form of slavery. However, people can be subjected to it in their home countries, with women and girls in forced labor usually being sexually exploited as well.
  • Bonded labor or debt bondage: It happens when people take on a debt ¾usually entailing very high interest rates— and are forced into labor to repay it, perceiving little to no money from the work they are doing. Bonded labor is usually an intergenerational affair. The person who took on the debt is generally unable to pay it before their death, thus passing it on to their family.
  • Unlawful recruitment of children as child soldiers: Encompasses the unlawful recruitment and used of children by armed groups as combatants or for other forms of labor. Child soldiers are often sexually abused, which exposes them to a plethora of sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Domestic servitude: Takes place when the domestic worker is not free to leave the home of her employer, where she is abused and underpaid, if she is paid at all.

Women and girls comprise 70% of the global victims of slavery - Photo Credit: Flickr


The slavery facts from this section were taken from this article, found in the United Nations Information Service (UNIS) website. Information was also taken from this article on Dosomething.org and this article on the International Labour Organization website.

  • The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimated, as of 2012, that roughly 20.7 million children and adults were subjected to forced labor. However, the Walk Free Foundation’s Global Slavery Index (GSI) affirms that the number is, in fact, 35.8 million. So, the amount of people in slavery today could be anywhere from 20 to 30 million.
  • As of 2011, women and girls made up 70% of the detected population, with women making up 49%. Men and boys took 18% and 12%, respectively.
  • As of 2011, 1 in 3 trafficked children were girls.
  • Victims of human trafficking and forced labor are usually drawn from minorities or socially excluded groups.
  • In the detected victims, over 6 out of 10 were foreigners in the country where they were detected. In other words, they had been moved across at least one national border


  • The 2014 Global Report of Trafficking in Persons, published by the UNODC, found victims from 152 nationalities scattered over 124 countries. It is safe to say that modern day slavery is happening in virtually every country in the world, in one way or another
  • At least 510 flows of human trafficking existed as of 2014. Transregional flows were mainly detected in the rich countries of the Middle East, Western Europe and North America.
  • The victims often come from “the global south”, meaning South and East Asia, as well as South Saharan Africa.
  • The most common type of human trafficking is across borders in the same sub-region (37%) with domestic trafficking following close, at (34%).
  • According to ILO statistics, the “Asia-Pacific region accounts for the largest number of forced labourers in the world – 11.7 million (56 per cent) of the global total, followed by Africa at 3.7 million (18 per cent) and Latin America with 1.8 million victims (9 per cent)”

Pakistani brick kilns stay afoot because of the use of bonded labor - Photo Credit: Wikipedia


  • According to the UNDOC report, 53% of slavery victims are objects of sex trafficking, followed closely by forced labour, which clocks in at 40%
  • On a Verité report on human trafficking, it was found that these sectors are some of the more at-risk sectors for forced labor: agriculture, construction, electronics, fishing, mining, forestry. The list can be seen in full in the 2015 TIP report, by the US Government and on Verité’s website.
  • 90% of victims of slavery today are being exploited in private economy, by individuals and enterprises. The remaining 10% are in state-imposed forms of forced labor.
  • An average of 150 billion USD are made each year in illegal revenue from slavery. 99 come from sexual exploitation and the rest from forced labor.


Slavery is a widespread, pressing issue. With such a vast extent, it may be affecting someone near you. We highly encourage you to keep yourself informed with the latest slavery facts and statistics. Below you can find reading material, besides the sources cited above:

Situational Poverty: Definition and Types
Child Poverty: A threat to childhood