Forced labor generates illegal profits of 220,000 million every year

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

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
30 March 2024 Saturday 23:09
10 Reads
Forced labor generates illegal profits of 220,000 million every year

Mafias, traffickers, criminal organizations, private sector companies and even state public organizations profit every year from the economic exploitation of forced labor, with profits approaching 220 billion euros a year on a global scale, according to a report from the 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 earnings 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 such as Samsung or Microsoft", declared this week at the presentation of the data the Deputy Director General of the OIT, Manuela Tomei.

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

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

Examples range from hard jobs in industrial sectors (such as mining), to domestic services (eight out of ten jobs are without a contract and therefore without protection) or the difficult conditions that temporary workers live in agriculture, to the sexual exploitation of women or children by organized gangs.

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

The profits come from the money that the employer saves (with respect to the legal wage that he would have to pay the victim) and from the benefits that he obtains by taking advantage, through force, of the work of these people. These are illicit benefits which, in addition, distort competition. Because their low labor costs allow these companies to sell products (we see this in the textile sector) or services at very cheap prices, forcing legal companies to reduce their margins.

The other actors who suffer because of this perverse system are the states, who suffer fiscal losses (it must not be forgotten that about 2,000 million workers, or 60% of the world's population, do their work in the sector informal, according to data from this organization).

The families of the worker's country of origin are also harmed, as they do not have access to remittances ("which in practice are stolen from the workers' pockets", says the ILO). "People subject to forced labor are subject to multiple forms of coercion, and deliberate and systematic withholding of wages is one of the most common," said ILO Director-General Gilbert Houngbo. 85% of the individuals affected, according to the study, are employed in the private sector and the rest were in forced labor imposed by government authorities (but its economic impact is outside of this study).

And in Spain? What is the situation? Oxfam has produced a study on the groups with the most violated rights. 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 Lleida, Almeria, Huelva and Murcia. There are cases of erroneous calculation of hours, payments outside of the overtime agreement, delays in the payroll of up to two or three months without payment, all aggravated by the absence of adequate representation of workers in companies.

"My back hurts continuously", commented some workers of sub-Saharan origin. "I have received unpleasant comments of a sexual nature", explained 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 labour, although in some cases there may be", says Nerea Basterra, Oxfam's head of private sector and inequality.

The UGT union has repeatedly expressed its "concern" about the high increase in cases of trafficking for the purpose of labor exploitation that are observed both in the domestic service and in the care sector, and has asked to draw up a comprehensive plan to fight this scourge.

Beyond the criminal consequences that there may be in these cases of abuse, at the end of 2021 the central government approved the National Action Plan against Forced Labour: compulsory labor relations and other forced human activities. In 2022, 229 cases of human trafficking were registered in Spain, of which 89 were for the purpose of forced labour, according to data from the Ministry of the Interior.