Of the estimated 21 million people in forced labor, slavery or victimized by trafficking, 11 million of those victims are in Asia, according to the International Labor Organization. But there’s been a debate for quite some time as to who is considered a slave and under what circumstances. When is a slave a slave?
Beate Andrees, the head of the special action program to combat forced labor at the International Labor Organization, explained the current definition of slavery, adopted by the International Slavery Convention in 1926, how slavery differs from forced labor and why it’s important to make the distinction.
“Slavery is defined as a situation where a person keeps control or ownership over another person,” she said. “In other words, you need to have an element of coercion and control in a situation of slavery. And that is very similar to the forced labor definition adopted by the ILO in 1930, which also emphasized the element of coercion. Not every situation where a worker does not receive a fair wage or where a worker has to work long hours is automatically a situation of forced labor. We have to look for this element of coercion and control.” The ILO is the International Labor Organization.