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Forced Labour Slavery


“We wanted to leave the mill and live freely but I never thought that would happen in my lifetime.”– Rajeswari, a survivor of slavery rescued by IJM


Forced labour slavery uses deception, threats or violence to coerce someone to work for little to no pay. Although slavery has been outlawed in nearly every country, millions of men, women and children are working as slaves in brick kilns, rice mills, garment factories, fishing operations and many other industries.

Kumar’s Story

“It was a moving sight to see those little hands holding the hammer while they should’ve been in school holding pencils—now, they’re free and can go back to school.” – IJM Social Worker

The Facts

  • There are an estimated 35.8 million people held in slavery today.1
  • Children represent an estimated 26% of all forced labour victims.2
  • India has the largest estimated number of people in slavery, between 13.3 – 14.7 million.3

Understanding the Issue

Forced labour slavery is a violent crime. Physical and sexual assault are rampant: In IJM cases, we have documented forced labour slaves who have been beaten, gang raped, locked in tiny rooms, starved and even killed. Victims who try and escape commonly report being tracked down, beaten and returned to the facility. But many victims of slavery don’t try to run away, because owners use fear and deception that traps them more strongly than physical locks and walls.

One of the most common techniques to entrap labourers is through false debts. An owner lures a poor person into slavery by offering a small advance payment for their labour. The owner then ensures it is impossible for the slave to ever repay by inflating the debt owed with exorbitant interest charges, not paying the victim the promised wages and prohibiting him or her from working anywhere else. These false debts can be passed from one generation to the next; we have identified entire families (from grandparents to parents to children) who have been forced to work for years after accepting advance payments as low as $20.

Our Response

IJM combats forced labour slavery in India.

In 2014, IJM opened a new field office in Ghana, where thousands of children are enslaved
in the fishing industry, largely based around Lake Volta.


Rescue Victims

We identify people trapped in slavery, partner with local authorities to conduct rescue operations and ensure each victim is legally emancipated and receives government support.


Bring Criminals to Justice

We advocate for police reports to be filed against owners or traffickers, and support prosecution of slave owners.


Restore Survivors

We create individualized care plans for each person to respond to trauma and pursue dignifying jobs and educational opportunities


Strengthen Justice Systems

We provide hands-on mentoring for law enforcement, government officials and partner organisations. We also create social demand and advocate with state and national leaders to make ending slavery a top priority.


1.Global Slavery Index 2014 2International Labour Organisation. “ILO 2012 Global estimate of forced labour: Executive Summary.” 32013 Global Slavery Index. “India” The 2013 Trafficking in Persons report cites an even higher estimate of 20 to 65 million people.