ILO Minimum Estimate of Forced Labour in the World

The present technical document provides a detailed account of the methodology used in the estimate of forced labour in the world, published in the 2005 Global Report called "A Global Alliance against Forced Labour".

The ILO’s Special Action Programme to Combat Forced Labour (SAP-FL) and the Statistical Development and Analysis Unit of the ILO’s Policy Integration Department have pooled their efforts and resources to confront the methodological challenge of estimating global forced labour. The ILO also relied on external advice. On 28 and 29 April 2003, a consultation meeting was held at the ILO in Geneva with participants from academia, international organizations, NGOs, and governments. The meeting brought together statisticians, specialists in quantitative methods, and recognized international experts of forced labour. After this meeting, the estimation project carried on for a period of nearly two years.

Today the ILO publishes its first ever estimate of forced labour in the world, with indications of its regional distribution and broad forms. The main results are published in the Director General’s 2005 Global Report called A Global Alliance against Forced Labour. The present technical document provides a detailed account of the methodology used in the estimate. It also includes a thorough evaluation of the results, with calculation of margins of error and comparison with external sources.

The global estimate’s methodology is experimental and there are, doubtless, many ways to improve it. With the present document, the ILO makes the calculations transparent in the hope of stimulating an intellectual debate on the most appropriate way to estimate hidden problems such as forced labour for which little or no reliable data is available at the country level. But ultimately, we hope that these estimates will serve the purpose of attracting public attention to the continued existence of forced labour in the world and drawing support for its elimination.