Skip to main content

About this free course

Become an OU student

Download this course

Share this free course

Modern slavery
Modern slavery

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

4.1 What is forced labour?

The legal definition of forced labour is set out in the ILO’s Forced Labour Convention, (no. 29) 1930. It defines forced labour as: ‘all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of a penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily’. This Convention has been ratified by over 170 states and obliges them to ‘suppress the use of forced or compulsory labour in all its forms within the shortest possible period’. Forced labour is also prohibited by the key international human rights instruments. For example, Article 8 of the ICCPR 1966 also prohibits the use of forced labour and has been ratified by more than 160 states. Most states in the world have ratified at least one (if not both) of these instruments. China is the only country in the world, which has not ratified either of these international standards (information correct as of July 2014).  

The ILO estimates that nearly 21 million people are victims of forced labour worldwide and that the forced labour industry generates annual profits of $150 billion (ILO, 2014).

Watch this short video, Lured by a Job, Trapped in Forced Labour (2014) produced by the ILO, which shows the reality faced by the victims of forced labour. Please note that there is no verbal soundtrack to the video.

Download this video clip.Video player: Lured by a Job, Trapped in Forced Labour
Lured by a Job, Trapped in Forced Labour (2014)
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).