On June 11, 2014, the International Labour Conference has adopted a new legally binding ILO Protocol on Forced Labour, aiming to advance prevention, protection and compensation measures, as well as to intensify efforts to eliminate contemporary forms of slavery. Terre des Hommes has been fighting against child slavery since its creation and has just published a study on forced child labour :

At 12 years, a slave… children in forced labour

Forced labour by children is a global problem. However, very little data is available on how many children throughout the world are forced into work. This is hardly surprising given the illegal nature of such labour; methods of data collection such as statistical surveys, commonly used in other areas of research simply do not yield reliable results in this case.

On behalf of Terre des Hommes economist Friedel Hütz-Adams has now brought together from over a hundred legal sources and current studies definitions, data, regional hotspots and manifestations as well as stories of victims, drawing a current picture of the overall situation. The study concludes with recommendations to governments, companies and non-governmental organizations on what needs to be done to prevent and end forced labour of children and adults.

The findings of the study show that annually, around 150 billion U.S. dollars of additional profits are generated through the forced labour of children and adults. These are profits that would be unimaginable in regular employment. The greatest profits – namely about 80,000 U.S. dollars per victim per year – are earned from persons forced to perform sexual services in industrialised countries. By far the greatest part of forced labour goes undetected, which means that those responsible are not punished. Even work in private households may be forced labour: when families – for example, because of an emergency or extreme poverty – have to borrow money and become indebted, they are obliged to accept any work demanded by their creditor to repay the debts or to pay the interest. Such debts can bring whole families into debt bondage and hence into permanent forced labour. Often they are not capable to repay the credit and the debt burden is passed on to the next generation.

Causes of forced labour of children and adults include discrimination, poverty, inadequate qualifications and lack of access to official credit and social protection systems. Conversely, this means that to counter forced labour and curb the vulnerability of children, we need to invest in social protection systems, decent work opportunities and quality education. In countries in which forced labour is prevalent, steps must be taken to promote the development of a culture in which forced child labour and child marriages are outlawed.

Migration poses a particularly high risk factor: 44 percent of victims of forced labour have migrated, within a country or across borders. Greater protection should therefore be given to young migrants.

Follow the campaign to protect children on the move on destination-unknown.org

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