Forced Labour Slavery

Slavery is illegal almost everywhere—but today millions of children, women and men are trapped as slaves around the world.

Traffickers and slave owners use deception, threats or violence to force these families to work for little or no pay. Modern-day slaves are often denied adequate food or sleep, and they’re barred from leaving for school or medical care.

In India, whole families are forced to work in brick kilns, rice mills, garment factories and other places—some up to 20 hours per day. In Ghana, children as young as 4 suffer as slaves in the brutal fishing industry. In Cambodia, impoverished people are trafficked into industries like agriculture, construction and fishing, both inside the country and across borders.

The Facts arrow-simple-bottom
  • There are an estimated 40.3 million people held in slavery today. [1]
  • An estimated 90% of forced labour takes place in the private economy—homes, local businesses and multinational supply chains. [2]
  • 1 in 4 victims of modern slavery is a child. [3]
[1] Global Slavery Index & International Labour Organisation.“ILO 2012 Global estimate of forced labour: Executive Summary.”
[2] Human Rights Watch
[3] Global Slavery Index & ILO

One of the most common techniques used to entrap labourers is through false debts. An owner lures a poor person into slavery by offering a small advance payment for their labour. The owner then ensures it is impossible for slaves to ever repay by inflating the debt owed with exorbitant interest charges, not paying the victim the promised wages and prohibiting him or her from working anywhere else. These false debts can be passed from one generation to the next; we have identified entire families (from grandparents to parents to children) who have been forced to work for years after accepting advance payments as low as $20.

IJM combats forced labour slavery in Cambodia, Ghana, India, and Thailand.

We identify people trapped in slavery, partner with local authorities to conduct rescue operations and ensure each victim is legally emancipated and receives government support.

We advocate for police reports to be filed against owners or traffickers, and support prosecution of slave owners.

We create individualised care plans for each person to respond to trauma and pursue dignifying jobs and educational opportunities.

We provide hands-on mentoring for law enforcement, government officials and partner organisations. We also create social demand and advocate with state and national leaders to make ending slavery a top priority.