Forced labour, also referred to as modern slavery, frequently occurs in regions with limited insight from the outside world. Forced labour includes people who are not free to leave their work without the risk of reprisal; people who have entered into employment under uninformed circumstances, people who automatically are becoming trapped in debt traps or who are not paid a salary as promised. As mines and forests are often isolated from larger communities, the extractive industries account for a considerable proportion of the total 20 to 45 million people that are currently trapped in forced labour.

Some examples

  • North Korea has the largest number of people working in forced labour. According to the Global Slavery Index, 2.6 million North Koreans – one in ten – were working as forced labour in 2018. In most cases, it is the state that forces people to work in slave-like conditions. Forced labour exists in mining, for example in extraction of coal and iron ore.
  • Forced labour occurs in diamond mines in Angola. For example, migrants from Congo Kinshasa work in mines in conditions close to forced labour. Women and children are trafficked for prostitution in mining areas. Criminal networks transport Congolese girls as young as 12 to Angola as forced labour and for prostitution.
  • The Central African Republic comes fourth in the Global Slavery Index of countries where modern slavery is most prevalent. People trafficking, primarily children, for forced labour and sexual exploitation is widespread. Mining, for example of diamonds, and logging are sectors where forced labour occurs.
  • Forced labour in the Amazon rain forests

    Forced labour in illegal logging in the Amazon is widespread. On the Brazilian side of the Amazon, authorities have rescued people who have been forced to work felling trees under slave-like conditions, without pay and entirely without protective equipment. Speaking to Repórter Brasil, one person who was rescued says:

    “The foreman says it’s better to pay 3,000 for a “pistolero” (an armed man) than pay 5,000 to an employee. It’s cheaper for the foreman. He points a gun in our faces and threatens us. But reporting this to the police would be suicide for us. There’s too much death in the forest.”

    Forced labour is also widespread in the Peruvian Amazon. Estimates put the number of people that are victims of forced labour in illegal logging in Peru at more than 30,000. Trafficking of women and girls for forced labour, primarily for prostitution, in these areas is widespread, and Peru’s government is accused of not taking sufficient steps to combat this. Trafficking and child labour are also widespread in many of the illegal gold mines in the south of the country.