Forced labour in Europe

While Europe is one of the highest developed areas in the world and the labour market is a very rigid and structured one, it still has some struggles with things like forced labour. Forced labour is usually something that less developed regions struggle with so it is interesting to see what the case is in Europe. According to the ITUC (International Trade Union Confederation) Guide ‘Never Work Alone’ 2011 there are still approximately 12.3 million people in the world forced to work. If we break this down to regions we can see that in Europe there are still 360.000 workers in forced labour, around 270.000 of these workers ended up in forced labour because of trafficking processes. These numbers are, at least to me, quite high for such a developed region as Europe.

If we break the figures down we can see that most of the forced labour workers are woman (58.2%) compared to the percentage of men (41,8%). However, if we look at the successful migrants (i.e., the one ones who are not forced to work but have a decent living) the percentage is 34,4% of woman compared to 65,7% of the men. Most of the forced labour workers work in less regulated areas like domestic places, agriculture, construction or even prostitution. The situation usually works something like the following: people are brought into contact with a trafficker who deceives the workers with good stories and promises. The worker will then try to gather a huge sum of money so that the trafficker will traffic him or her to the country of destination. And it is not just paying for this, the migrant worker also has to pay for documents, food and transport. All in all, this means that the worker will have huge debts by the time he will arrive in the new country. There he will meet his new employer who will him or her very little money. This means that the employer provides food and shelter for the employee but this way the employee will be totally trapped with nowhere to go. Often there is violence involved as well.

In Europe however the number of people working in forced labour conditions is low compared to the rest of the world. Most of the people in the world that work in forced labour are in Asia. Most of the forced labour in Europe is in shifting markets or unregulated ones, so generally speaking there is very little opportunity for traffickers to traffic people. However, Europe is still one of the most attractive areas in the world for immigrants, so there will also be forced labour workers. Luckily the laws and organisations working against this are quite good.

– Forced labour and Traffecking in Europe: how people are trapped in, live through and come out. By Beate Andrees, February 2008.
– ITUC Guide ‘Never Work Alone’, February 2011.


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