International Labour Organization

Modern slavery and child labour: Asia’s unacceptable record

Tomoko Nishimoto says while the region has seen a sharp decline in forced labour, it remains a centre for exploitation, and massive, multinational efforts are required to end all forms of slavery

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 November, 2017, 2:47pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 November, 2017, 7:11pm

Of the 40 million victims of modern slavery worldwide, almost two-thirds are exploited in Asia and the Pacific.

Further breakdowns of the figure reveal that the region accounts for 73 per cent of all victims of forced sexual exploitation, 64 per cent of those in forced labour exploitation, and 68 per cent of those subjected to state-imposed forced labour.

Although the share of people in extreme poverty in Asia and the Pacific has been cut by about 70 per cent over the past 10 years, 62 million children must still work so they and their families can survive.

Fighting these unacceptable forms of work is part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by world leaders in 2015. It’s an agenda whereby all countries commit to 17 interrelated goals and 169 associated targets to guide global development, known as the sustainable development goals.

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Target 8.7 calls for “immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human-trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour”.

The targets, particularly 8.7, will not happen without a dramatic increase in efforts. Integrated thinking, coordinated action, effective policymaking and efficient use of resources will be needed at unprecedented levels to end slavery and child labour.

Policies beyond the world of work must converge around this goal to address the causes of forced labour, modern slavery and child labour, and find the incentives and deterrents to change behaviour.

Achieving target 8.7 requires new mobilised partnerships to harness energy, resources and strategic vision. That’s what “Alliance 8.7” is about: a multistakeholder initiative conducting research, sharing knowledge, driving innovation and leveraging resources.

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This objective requires the involvement of all in society: governments, workers’ and employers’ organisations, the private sector, civil society and community organisations, faith-based groups, academia, the media and individuals.

There are already encouraging signs; Asia has seen the largest decline in child labour since 2012. This progress was accomplished by moving away from isolated approaches, toward policies that tackle the root causes of child labour, while strengthening countries’ legal frameworks and capacities for enforcement.

Let’s continue the momentum and ask ourselves, and each other – what more is needed to ensure there’s no one left behind in our own countries and communities, in our businesses, schools and homes? If not us, who else?

Tomoko Nishimoto is assistant director general and regional director for Asia and the Pacific at the International Labour Organisation