The UN International Labour Organisation’s global estimate of forced labour in 2012 placed the number of people trapped in various forms of slavery throughout the world at 21 million, of whom 78 percent toiled in forced manual labour, 22 percent were trapped in sex slavery and about 26 percent were children. More recent estimates place the number at around 45 million.

These are shocking statistics in the 21st century and this is one of the reasons why the Modern Slavery Act 2015 was introduced by the then home secretary, Theresa May, to ensure that companies are not complicit in this insidious multi-billion pound industry.

A recent review of the Act found that 289 modern slavery offences were prosecuted in 2015 and that there was a 40 percent rise in the number of victims referred for support. Despite this, the UK Home Office estimates that there are between 10,000 and 13,000 potential victims of slavery in the UK.

Definition of modern slavery

The term ‘modern slavery’ covers slavery, servitude, forced and compulsory labour and human trafficking. A typical example is a migrant worker who has taken a loan to pay for travel to another country to work or to pay fees to an organisation that finds them work (or both), with the intention of repaying the loan from their earnings.

They then become trapped in a situation where other amounts are added to the loan while they are working for things such as accommodation or transport and they are unable to meet the loan repayments from their earnings. Frequently their passports are also taken from them and held by their employer.

Oct-Dec 2016 Issue

ICSA: The Governance Institute