There are 25 million workplace slaves worldwide — there's no end in sight

Zakir Chowdhury | Barcroft Media | Getty Images

A child working in an aluminium pot making factory, reportedly under coercion, on May 23, 2017 in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

International agencies know there are tens of millions trapped in forced labor, and they know many supply chains profit, but that's not enough to even begin to remedy the problem of global slavery.

Still, some are hoping that a new publication could galvanize international effort to tackle modern slavery head-on. The report, jointly published last month by United Nations labor agency the International Labor Organization and human rights group the Walk Free Foundation, found that 25 million are trapped in workplace slavery around the world.

By quantifying slavery, the survey completes an essential first step that could compel governments to act, according to Andrew Forrest, chairman of Australia's Fortescue metals and founder of the Walk Free Foundation.

"We can now measure slavery ... If you can measure it, remember it's a human construct, we can now dismantle it," Forrest told On Events.

"If you have to acknowledge it exists and you don't do anything about it, then you become like a willful collaborator," he said.

In the wake of the report, Forrest said, governments and business leaders are "now waking up to the fact that measurement now exists for modern slavery."

While both the ILO and the Walk Free Foundation had separately published modern slavery estimates previously, the September report represents the first partnership by the two big players in the field.


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