|Protest against child slavery in India.
Fifty million people around the world are trapped in forced labor or forced marriage, the UN said Monday, warning that their ranks had swelled dramatically in recent years.
The study by the UN's agencies for labor and migration along with the Walk Free Foundation found that at the end of last year, 28 million people were in forced labor and 22 million living in a marriage they had been forced into. That means nearly one out of every 150 people in the world are caught up in modern forms of slavery, the report said. The Covid pandemic, which worsened conditions and swelled debt levels for many workers, has heightened the risk, the survey found.
Children account for one out of five people in forced labor, with more than half of them stuck in commercial sexual exploitation, the report said.
Migrant workers are more than three times likely to be in forced labor than non-migrant adult workers, it showed.
"This report underscores the urgency of ensuring that all migration is safe, orderly, and regular," Antonio Vitorino, head of the International Organization for Migration, said in the statement.
Modern slavery is present in basically every country, with more than half of cases of forced labour and a quarter of forced marriages in upper-middle income or high-income countries.
According to the report, 14 percent of those in forced labor were doing jobs imposed by state authorities, voicing concern about abuse of compulsory prison labor in many countries, including the United States.
The UN report also highlights the situation in China, where several UN agencies have warned of possible forced labour, including in the Xinjiang region, where Beijing stands accused of detaining more than one million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities. Beijing has vehemently rejected such charges, claiming it is running vocational training centres to help root out extremism.