FORCED labor in agriculture generates $150 billion in illegal profits a year, the International Labor Organization (ILO) has reported.

It said the $150 billion in illegal profits per year from forced labor in the private economy is about three times more than previously estimated.

The ILO report said two-thirds – or $99 billion – came from commercial sexual exploitation, while another $51 billion resulted from forced economic exploitation, including domestic work, agriculture and other economic activities.

"This new report takes our understanding of trafficking, forced labor and modern slavery to a new level," says ILO Director-General Guy Ryder. "Forced labor is bad for business and development and especially for its victims. Our new report adds new urgency to our efforts to eradicate this fundamentally evil, but hugely profitable practice as soon as possible."

The new figures are based on ILO data published in 2012 that estimated there were 21 million people in forced labor, trafficking and modern slavery.

Significantly, the new estimate indicated that more than half of the people in forced labor are women and girls, primarily in commercial sexual exploitation and domestic work, while men and boys were primarily in forced economic exploitation in agriculture, construction and mining.

The breakdown of profits generated by forced economic exploitation: $34 billion in construction, manufacturing, mining and utilities; $9 billion in agriculture, including forestry and fishing; and $8 billion saved by private households by not paying or underpaying domestic workers held in forced labor.

The report highlighted income shocks and poverty as the main economic factors that push individuals into forced labor. Other factors contributing to risk and vulnerability include lack of education, illiteracy, gender and migration.

The ILO estimated that the total illegal profits obtained from the use of forced labor are highest in Asia (US$ 51.8 billion) and in developed economies (US$ 46.9 billion), mainly for two reasons: the high number of victims in Asia and the high profit per victim in developed economies.

Of the US$51.8 billion estimated annual profits from forced labor in Asia and the Pacific, US$31.70 are from forced sexual exploitation, US$6.30 from domestic work and US$13.80 from non-domestic labor.

The Asia-Pacific region accounts for the largest number of forced laborers – 11.7 million (56 percent of the global total).

Of these, 2.5 million are victims of forced sexual exploitation; 7.9 million of forced labor exploitation such as domestic work, agriculture, construction, manufacturing and mining; and 1.2 million from state imposed forced labor. (PR)