Forced labor generates illegal profits of 220 billion each year

Mafias, traffickers, criminal organizations, private sector companies and even state public organizations take advantage of the economic exploitation of forced labor every year, with profits that approach 220 billion euros per year on a global scale, according to a report from the Organization.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
30 March 2024 Saturday 10:32
11 Reads
Forced labor generates illegal profits of 220 billion each year

Mafias, traffickers, criminal organizations, private sector companies and even state public organizations take advantage of the economic exploitation of forced labor every year, with profits that approach 220 billion euros per year on a global scale, according to a report from the Organization. International Labor Organization (ILO) that was released this week.

The previous study was carried out a decade ago and throughout this period the increase in profits has been 37%, an increase that this United Nations institution describes as “obscene.” “We are talking about the equivalent of the GDP of Latvia or Croatia. It even surpasses the turnover of giants like Samsung or Microsoft,” the department director, Manuela Tomei, declared this week in the presentation of the data.

Today, in the year 2024, there are still 27 million people in the world in forced labor, who suffer what could be called a form of modern slavery: they do not work because they want to, but because they are forced and do so under threat of sanction.

This group – mostly young people, immigrants and women – are victims of coercion, captured with false promises of a job that does not respect the conditions and minimum rights of protection, without minimum wage, often paid in black and without the possibility of leaving it. , because they are trapped in a spiral of debt.

Examples range from heavy work in industrial sectors (such as mining), to domestic services (eight out of ten jobs are without a contract and therefore devoid of guardianship) or the difficult conditions experienced by seasonal workers in the agriculture, to the sexual exploitation of women or children by organized gangs.

On average, traffickers, criminals and unscrupulous businessmen make 10,000 euros for each victim as a result of these labor abuses. The region where there are the most cases of forced labor is Asia-Pacific: almost half of the total.

The profits come from the money that the employer saves (compared to the legal salary that he should pay to the victim), as well as from the benefits he obtains by taking advantage, by force, of the work of these people. They are illicit benefits that also distort competition. Because their low labor costs allow these companies to sell products at very cheap prices (we see this in the textile sector) or services, forcing legal companies to reduce their margins.

The other actors that suffer because of this perverse system are the governments, which suffer fiscal losses (we must not forget that some 2,000 million workers or 60% of the world's population carry out their work tasks in the informal sector, according to data from this organization).

Other victims are families from the worker's country of origin, who do not have access to remittances (“which in practice are stolen from workers' pockets,” says the ILO). “People subjected to forced labor are subject to multiple forms of coercion, with the deliberate and systematic withholding of wages being one of the most common,” said ILO Director-General Gilbert Houngbo.

85% of the affected individuals, according to the study, are in the private sector and the rest were in forced labor imposed by government authorities (but their economic impact is outside of this study).

And in Spain? What is the situation? The NGO Oxfam has carried out an investigation into the groups whose rights are most violated. They are of migrant origin and work especially in the agriculture and personal care sectors.

In particular, in the agricultural world, the organization has detected cases in the enclaves of Lleida, Almería, Huelva and Murcia: there are erroneous calculations of hours, payment outside of the overtime agreement, delays in payroll of up to two or three months without pay, all aggravated by an absence of adequate representation of workers in companies.

“My back hurts all the time,” commented workers of sub-Saharan origin. “I receive unpleasant sexual comments,” said a Romanian day laborer. “These cases are not isolated. They are part of a production model based on the exploitation of people and the environment. It is not forced labor, although in some cases it may be,” says Nerea Basterra, head of Private Sector and Inequality at Oxfam.

The UGT union has repeatedly shown its “concern” about the high increase in cases of trafficking for labor exploitation that are being observed both in domestic service and in the care sector and has asked to develop a comprehensive plan to combat against this plague.

Beyond the criminal consequences that may exist in these cases of abuse, at the end of 2021 the Government approved the so-called “National Action Plan against Forced Labor: mandatory labor relations and other forced human activities.” In 2022, 229 cases of human trafficking were registered in Spain, of which 89 were for the purposes of forced labor, according to data from the Ministry of the Interior.