The Scale of Modern Slavery

In their 2017 Global Estimate, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that in 2016 there were 40 million people globally stuck in modern slavery. This includes 25 million in forced labour and 15 million in forced marriages. The new estimate also revealed that 150 million children were victims of child labour and that 71% of modern slavery victims were women and girls.

They estimate that for every thousand people in the world, there were 5.4 victims of modern slavery. This is equivalent to there being roughly 46,980 people in slavery to London’s population of 8.7 million or 351,000 people in slavery to the UK’s population of 65 million. Now, any number greater than zero is horrid, but the numbers that the estimate revealed are inhumane and incomprehensible.  It is unbelievable that such a large number of people exist who are enslaved at a point in history where we have supposedly grown as a society and abolished slavery.


One explanation for such high numbers is that the demand for cheap labour, cheap goods and sex is extremely high. In order to meet these demands, corners have been cut and vulnerable people are paying the price – this price is their freedom.


It’s no use throwing statistics at the public and going on about the problem without offering some form of a solution. So, I’ve a compiled a list of things we can all do to help.

  1. Raise awareness:
    • Spreading the word about modern slavery is key if anything is going to change. If no one knows about it then we cannot help those who need it the most. Start conversations about it, share it on your social media – if you aren’t too sure what to share there are a plethora of organisations that tweet daily and blog about modern slavery issues. Check the end of this post for accounts to follow.
    • The impact of raising awareness is often downplayed, but the truth is, without this initial act we’re limited in the number of people we can reach. Unawareness prevents those who may want to help from helping. People, who through no fault of their own, are not aware of modern slavery, won’t know about it if those who are aware do not raise awareness. Everything we plan on changing starts with raising awareness.
  2. Change the products you use/your lifestyle:
    • A lot of the products we use daily have been made by people in slavery. The tea you drink, your cotton shirt, the chocolate bar you have on your lunch break – these products are tainted with modern slavery. It is therefore important to research the products you use to check whether they may have been produced using forced labour. My previous post explains how to check if your favourite company is doing anything to ensure that their supply chains do not include forced labour/modern slavery.
  3. Lobby for change in your government:
    • Law and policy is an important factor in the fight against modern slavery. It is therefore important to email and write to your MP expressing your concern about this issue and questioning what they are doing to help. Twitter is a great tool to use to contact those who have the power to change policy, so check if your MP has a Twitter and tweet them!
  4. Pressure your favourite companies to make changes to their supply chains:
    • I understand that it may not be easy to change some of the products you use, so it is important to put pressure on companies to respect human rights in their supply chains. Companies must take the necessary steps to ensure that modern slavery is not present in their business, but the best way to ensure this actually happens is for customers, people like you and me, to demand transparency. Companies have no choice but to improve their transparency if their customers constantly demand it. After all, without us, these companies would cease to exist.

Change is possible. Despite the scale of modern slavery, with consistent campaigning, effective laws, the implementation of these laws and a genuine heart to effect change, those in captivity can be freed.

See the full report here.

See the summary report here.

Check out these charities and organisations working to eradicate human trafficking and modern slavery:

International Justice Mission


anti-slavery international

Freedom United

End Slavery Now

Hope for Justice

Unseen UK

Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre: