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More must be done to eradicate forced labour - UN labour agency

Published:Wednesday | May 21, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Leaders of International Economic Organizations (from left): World Trade Organization Secretary-General Roberto Azevedo, Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development Secretary-General José Angel Gurria, International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde, International Labour Organization Secretary General Guy Ryder, and the president of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, talk prior to a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, at the chancellery in Berlin. - AP


Forced labour produces illegal profits of US$150 billion a year, the United Nations' labour agency disclosed yesterday, as it appealed for global eradication of the abuse.

The report by the International Labour Organization found that global profits generated by the involuntary toil of an estimated 21 million workers have more than tripled since 2005, when the agency calculated the profits at US$44 billion.

The director-general, Guy Ryder, said the report highlights the need "to eradicate this fundamentally evil but hugely profitable practice as soon as possible". He said many governments, employers and labour unions all needed to do more to stamp out abusive employment practises, including outright slavery.

Nearly two-thirds of the estimated profits, $99 billion, come from sexual exploitation, including prostitution and pornography, the report said. It found that women were most commonly the victims of forced employment in sex-related trades and domestic chores, while men and boys were more commonly exploited in agricultural, mining and construction work.

The report said the world's most developed countries, including the entire European Union, accounted for nearly a third of the illegal profits, $46.9 billion, while the rest of the Asia Pacific region generated $51.8 billion. Other regions had much lower totals.

It found that exploited workers generated much more money per head for their employers in the richest countries. Estimated profits in developed countries reached $34,800 per worker, while Africa registered the lowest per-capita profit rate of $3,900.

Worldwide, it found sexually exploited workers produced by far the highest profits for their employers: $21,800 per worker, versus just $2,500 on average for each farm labourer, and $2,200 for each domestic worker.