• At any given time in 2016, an estimated 40.3 million people are in modern slavery, including 24.8 in forced labour and 15.4 million in forced marriage.
  • It means there are 5.4 victims of modern slavery for every 1,000 people in the world.
  • Out of the 24.9 million people trapped in forced labour, 16 million people are exploited in the private sector such as domestic work, construction or agriculture; 4.8 million persons in forced sexual exploitation, and 4 million persons in forced labour imposed by state authorities.
  • Women and girls are disproportionately affected by modern slavery and are into forced labour, accounting almost 29 million or 71% of the overall total. Women represented 99% of the victims of forced labour in the commercial sex industry and 84% of forced marriages.

Source: International Labour Organization and the Walk Free Foundation, in partnership with the International Organization for Migration (2017).

Since the Modern Slavery Act was introduced in 2015 there has been a significant increase in the number of victims identified. This is positive as it reflects growing awareness….


  • 1 in 4 victims of modern slavery are children.
  • In 2016 there were about 4.3 million children aged below 18 years in forced labour, representing 18% of the 24.8 million total forced labour victims worldwide.
  • This estimate includes 1 million children in commercial sexual exploitation.
  • In 2016, 152 million children, aged between 5 and 17, were subject to child labour. Of which, 73 million were in hazardous work.
  • Of these 152 million children, 58% were boys (88 million) and 42% were girls (64 million).
  • Child labour remains concentrated primarily in agriculture (70.9%). Almost 1 in 5 child labourers work in the services sector (17.1%) while 11.9% of child labourers work in industry.
  • Regional prevalence of child labour
    • Africa: 19.6%
    • Americas: 5.3%
    • Arab States: 2.9%
    • Asia and the Pacific: 7.4%
    • Europe and Central Asia: 4.1%
Note: The few studies undertaken of child victims of forced labour (including sexual exploitation) all mention the difficulty of identifying and targeting these hard-to-reach children, despite their situations of extreme abuse.


  • Since 2012, there has been a 300% rise in recorded trafficking victims. This doesn’t simply mean that trafficking has been on the rise, it also reflects stronger laws (resulting in more exploited people being officially considered trafficking victims) and more awareness.
  • In 2017, 5,145 potential victims of modern slavery and human trafficking were submitted to the National Referral Mechanism; a 35% increase on 2016.
  • For the first time ever, British citizens were the largest group of cases, followed by Albanian and Vietnamese nationals.
As part of its role to combat organised crime in the UK, the National Crime Agency (NCA) keeps track of people identified as victims of modern slavery. Their latest annual report on the UK National Referral Mechanism (“NRM”) Statistics for 2017 is a timely reminder that the UK is a key destination country for human traffickers. In total, there were 116 countries of origin of victims of trafficking, with the significant majority of victims being UK, Albanian and Vietnamese nationals. The Global Slavery Index 2016 ranks the United Kingdom as the 52nd most prevalent country (out of 167) for modern slavery and highlights a wide range of high-risk economic sectors in the UK, including agriculture, fishing, construction, manufacturing and domestic work sectors. Source: National Crime Agency (2018)


  • We don’t know exactly how many children have been trafficked into or within the UK. Trafficking is a hidden crime and recorded statistics are almost certainly an under-estimate.
  • In 2017, the number of children identified and reported to the National Referral Mechanism as potential victims of modern slavery and human trafficking, increased by 66% to 2,118 compared with 1,278 in 2016.
  • The most common countries for children to be trafficked from are the UK, Albania, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Eritrea.
  • The most common reasons for children to be trafficked are labour exploitation and sexual exploitation.

There are figures on charges, prosecutions and convictions for trafficking offences in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. However these are very low and don’t specify if the victims were adults or children.

These figures don’t include prosecutions for crime related to trafficking such as assisting unlawful immigration, false imprisonment, and causing, inciting or controlling prostitution for gain. Nor do they include international investigations where the perpetrators were prosecuted in another country.

Source: National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC)

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