Handbooks of Research on International Political Economy series
Edited by Kees van der Pijl
Chapter 17: Unfreedom and workers’ power: ever-present possibilities
Trafficking, forced labour and related phenomena have been documented time and again in recent years by advocacy groups, the media and government agencies. The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that there are 20.9 million people in some form of forced labour worldwide. The estimate is broken down regionally and sectorally: 11.7 million of these are thought to be in the Asia and Pacific region; and 18.7 million are believed to be in the private economy, among whom 14.2 million are involved in economic activities not related to sexual exploitation. Debt bondage appears to be the most common mechanism of forced labour (cf. ILO 2005; 2012; Andrees and Belser 2009). The prevalence of labour relations characterized by various forms of unfreedom raises critical questions about how the phenomenon fits into the contemporary economy, and therefore about how to address the issue(s) in ways that advance the interests of all exploited workers.
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