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ILO says 10 Million in Forced Labor in Asia


A young boy works on a tire at a garage in Allahabad, India
More than 12 million people around the world are being forced to work against their will and most of them live in Asia. The International Labor Organization says that altogether they generate $32 billion a year for those who exploit them.

The International Labor Organization reports the use of forced labor is rising due to globalization, increased competitiveness and the world economic boom.

A Bangkok-based legal expert with the ILO, Tim Demeyer, says nearly 10 million of the forced laborers are in Asia. He says this is in part because of traditional labor systems involving laborers working to pay off family debts to employers.

"A large proportion of that number [in Asia] are bonded laborers, people, farmers working in the bonded labor system in South Asia, mainly Pakistan, India and Nepal," said Mr. Demeyer.

He adds that of the remaining millions, most are forced to work by governments, for example as laborers for the military in Burma and or in re-education camps for dissidents in China.

Mr. Demeyer says demand for cheap labor is rising in Asia because of its booming economies and increased competitiveness. Yet, efforts by governments to protect workers are lagging.

"Many Asian states have been growing and developing rapidly over the last few years. [But] The social development in many respects has been staying behind," he said.

The I.L.O. report says that forced laborers are thought to work mainly in the informal economy, but that because of globalization and the increasing use of sub-contractors, the practice is infiltrating the mainstream corporate economy.

The International Labor Organization says clear laws protecting workers are needed and these laws must be enforced. But it notes that many countries do not have such laws or the specialized courts needed to enforce them.

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