Strengthening the global fight against all forms of forced labour
What is Forced Labour?
Forced labour is defined in the International Labour
Organization (ILO) Convention No. 29, one of the most ratified
ILO Conventions, as work that is performed involuntarily and
under coercion. It can take place in any industry, including
in the informal economy. Many victims, in particular women
and girls, are subjected to commercial sexual exploitation, but
forced labour is also prevalent in sectors such as agriculture,
fishing, domestic work, construction, manufacturing and
mining. It includes men, women and children in situations of
debt bondage, suffering slavery-like conditions or who have
What is the scope of this issue?
• 21 million men, women and children today are in forced
labour – trafficked, held in debt bondage or working in
• 90% of victims are exploited in the private economy
• Every region of the world is affected
• Victims often work hidden from public view and are
difficult to identify
• 44% of all victims have migrated internally or across
• US$150 billion generated in illicit profits. Industries and
businesses face unfair competition and states lose billions
in tax income and social security contributions
Forced Labour: 21 million victims; US$150 billion in illicit profits
What happened in 2014
In June 2014, governments, employers and workers at the ILO International Labour Conference
(ILC) decided to give new impetus to the global fight against forced labour, including trafficking
in persons and slavery-like practices.
They voted overwhelmingly to adopt a Protocol and a Recommendation which supplement the
Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29), and complement existing international instruments
by providing specific guidance on effective measures to be taken to eliminate all forms of
The adoption of the Protocol to the Convention is “the fruit of our collective determination to
put an end to an abomination which still afflicts our world of work and to free its 21 million
victims” as ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder, said in his closing remarks to the ILC.
What the Protocol will change
What is the Forced Labour Protocol?
The Protocol to the Forced Labour Convention, 1930, is a new, legally-binding instrument that requires States
to take measures regarding prevention, protection and remedy in giving effect to the Convention’s obligation
to suppress forced labour. It supplements the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29), so only ILO member
States that have ratified the Convention can ratify the Protocol. The Convention itself remains open for
What is Recommendation No. 203?
The Forced Labour (Supplementary Measures) Recommendation, 2014 (No. 203) provides non-binding
practical guidance in the areas of prevention, protection of victims and ensuring their access to justice and
remedies, enforcement and international cooperation. It supplements both the Protocol and the Convention.
What must states do to eliminate forced labour?
The fundamental obligation of Convention No. 29 is to suppress all forms of forced labour. This means that
States must not only criminalize and prosecute forced labour, but also – as the new Protocol makes clear –
take effective measures to prevent forced labour and provide victims with protection and access to remedies,
What does ratification mean and when will the Protocol enter into force?
A Protocol, like a Convention, needs to be ratified by a country to enter into force. By ratifying the instrument,
• accepts it as a legally binding instrument;
• makes a formal commitment to implement the obligations in that instrument;
• accepts the ILO supervisory system, in which social partners may intervene.
The Protocol will enter into force following registration of its second ratification. Thereafter, it enters into force
for any ratifying member twelve months after ratification.
A Recommendation, as a non-binding instrument, is not open to ratification.
The Forced Labour Protocol’s main provisions
It reaffirms the definition of forced labour contained in Convention No. 29.
Prevention (Article 2)
• Educating and informing those considered particularly vulnerable, employers and the wider public.
• Extending the coverage and enforcement of relevant laws to all workers and sectors.
• Strengthening labour inspection and other services responsible for implementation of these laws.
• Protection from abuses arising during the recruitment process.
• Supporting due diligence by the public and private sectors.
• Addressing root causes and factors that heighten the risks of forced labour.
Protection (Article 3 and 4(2))
• Effective measures for the identification, release, protection, recovery and rehabilitation of victims.
• Protecting victims from punishment for unlawful activities that they were compelled to commit.
Remedies (Article 4(1))
• Ensuring victims’ access to appropriate and effective remedies, such as compensation, irrespective
of their presence or legal status in the territory.
Trafficking in persons (Article 1(3))
• Measures taken under the Protocol must include specific action against trafficking in persons for
Effective measures (Article 1(1))
In giving effect to their obligation to suppress forced labour under the Forced Labour Convention, the
Protocol requires States to take effective measures to prevent and eliminate forced labour, to provide
victims protection and access to appropriate and effective remedies, such as compensation, and to
Implementation and consultation (Article 1(2))
• Development of a national policy and plan of action in consultation with employers’ and workers’
• Systemic action taken in coordination with these organizations as well as with other groups
International Cooperation (Article 5)
• Cooperation between and among States to prevent and eliminate forced labour.
How will ILO supervision work?
As the Protocol supplements a fundamental ILO Convention:
• Ratifying members States must submit a report every 3 years on measures they have taken to
implement the Protocol, which will be examined by the ILO supervisory bodies;
• non-ratifying members States are required to participate in the annual reporting and review
process set out in the Follow-up to the 1998 Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at
What can the ILO do to support the ratification process?
The ILO has provided technical assistance on combatting forced labour to its members throughout the
world through its research, capacity building and field-based projects. The ILO supports countries that
pursue the ratification of the Protocol. For instance, it can contribute to awareness-raising campaigns,
provide capacity building to strengthen the role of employers’ and workers’ organizations and advise
governments on the development and implementation of relevant laws, policies and programmes.
A global alliance against modern forms of slavery
Together, the ILO’s forced labour instruments – including the new Protocol and Recommendation
(No. 203) as well as the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29), and the Abolition of Forced Labour
Convention, 1957 (No. 105) – provide all actors with a comprehensive strategy and a set of tools to
address forced labour in a modern-day context.
It complements and strengthens existing international law, including the UN Slavery Conventions and
the UN Protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children,
as well as regional instruments such as the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking
in Human Beings.
These instruments have contributed to widespread prohibitions of slavery, forced labour and human
trafficking practices. But the scale of the problem suggests a need to focus actively on prevention, for
instance through strategies that strengthen the role of labour inspection and workers’ and employers’
The greater emphasis on protection and access to justice brought by the Protocol will help to ensure
that the human rights of victims are respected and that perpetrators are punished.
A wide ratification of the Protocol will be a clear sign given by countries that forced labour must be
“A global alliance against forced labour which holds that it is neither necessary nor tolerable to
countenance a form of abuse which has no place nor justification in today’s world seems to me the
only acceptable response. The ILO is ready to do what it can in such a global partnership with you.“
Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General
Special Action Programme to Combat Forced Labour (SAP-FL)
Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work Branch
International Labour Office
Route des Morillons, 4
CH – 1211 Geneva 22, Switzerland
Tel: +41 22 799 63 29; Fax: +41 22 799 65 61
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