Forced labour, as set out in the ILO Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No.29), refers to “all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily.” Forced labour does not depend on the type or sector of work, but only on whether the work was imposed on a person against their will through the use of coercion.
Forced labour is defined, for purposes of measurement, as work that is undertaken both under the
threat of any penalty and is involuntary. The threat of any penalty refers to the means of coercion used to impose work on someone against that person’s will.
Workers can be directly subjected to coercion, or subjected to verbal threats relating to specific elements of coercion, or can be witness to coercion imposed on other co-workers in relation to involuntary work. The coercion may take place during the worker’s recruitment process to force him or her to accept the job or, once the person is working, to force him or her to do tasks that were not part of what was agreed to at the time of recruitment or to prevent him or her from leaving the job. Involuntary work refers to any work taking place without the free and informed consent of the worker. There must be both a lack of free and informed consent and coercion for work to be statistically regarded as forced labour. Forced labour of children is defined, for purposes of measurement, as work performed by a child during a specified reference period falling under one of the following categories: (i) work performed for a third party, under threat or menace of any penalty applied by a third party (other than the child’ own parents) either on the child directly or the child’s parents; or (ii) work performed with or for the child’s parents, under threat or menace of any penalty applied by a
third party (other than the child’s parents) either on the child directly or the child’s parents; or (iii) work performed with or for the child’s parents where one or both parents are themselves in a situation of forced labour; or (iv) work performed in any one of the following worst forms of child labour: (a) all forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery, such as the sale and trafficking of children, debt bondage, and serfdom, [as well as forced or compulsory labour], including forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict; (b) the use, procuring, or offering of a child for prostitution, for the production of pornography, or for pornographic performances; (c) the use, procuring, or offering of a child for illicit activities, in particular for the production and trafficking of drugs as defined in relevant international treaties.
The typology depicted above, which was developed for the global estimates of forced labour, is based on three main categories of forced labour defined as follows:
Privately-imposed forced labour refers to forced labour in the private economy imposed by private
individuals, groups, or companies in any branch of economic of activity. It may include activities such as begging for a third party that go beyond the scope of the production of goods and services covered in the general production boundary of the System of National Accounts. For the purpose of the global estimates, privately-imposed forced labour is divided into two sub-types:
▪ Forced labour exploitation refers to forced labour in the private economy imposed by private
individuals, groups, or companies in any branch of economic of activity with the exception of commercial sexual exploitation.
▪ Forced commercial sexual exploitation refers to forced labour imposed by private agents for
commercial sexual exploitation and all forms of commercial sexual exploitation of children,
including the use, procuring, or offering of children for the production of child sexual abuse materials.
State-imposed forced labour refers to forced labour imposed by State authorities, regardless of the
branch of economic activity in which it takes place. It includes labour exacted by the State as a means of political coercion or education or as a punishment for expressing political views; as a punishment for participating in strikes; as a method of mobilizing labour for the purpose of economic development; as a means of labour discipline; and as a means of racial, social, national, or religious discrimination. While it is recognized that States have the power to impose compulsory work on citizens, the scope of these prerogatives is limited to specific circumstances, for example, compulsory military service for work of purely military character; normal civic obligations of citizens of a fully self-governing country and assimilated minor communal services; work or service under supervision and control of public authorities as a consequence of a conviction in a court of law; work or service in cases of emergency such as war, fire, flood, famine, earthquake, etc.
from “Global Estimates of Modern Slavery
Forced Labour and Forced Marriage”
© International Labour Organization (ILO), Walk Free, and International
Organization for Migration (IOM) 2022