Free 21 Million

How we make a living is not only something we all think about, it's something we should have the freedom to decide. If you are lucky, you will have a decent, well-paid job based on your choices. As a qualified person -- depending on your country -- you can expect a series of benefits and guarantees that your employer is bound to grant by law. From safety precautions, to minimum wage, maximum number of working hours and perhaps even benefits like paid vacation and maternity leave. The International Labour Office in Geneva has contributed to securing many of these rights for people across the world.

But all too many people are not so lucky. Last week, at the 103rd Labour Conference in Geneva, one of the most pressing issues discussed was forced labor. It's appalling that something like this remains a reality in today's world. Forced labor is another word for slavery. It's child labor, sexual exploitation, and abuse of migrant workers. It affects the poorest and most socially excluded people in many countries, rich and poor.

It is estimated that forced labor generates over $150 billion a year worldwide in illegal profits. Money made on the back of vulnerable people's misery. To put this amount into perspective, it is the same amount of money that the iPhone has generated in revenues since 2007! It's more than the annual GDP of Rwanda, Iceland, Kenya, Jamaica and Croatia combined! The obscene amount of money generated by forced labor is one of the main reasons of why it's so hard to eradicate.

But this is not about the money. This is about the freedoms and rights of 21 million people trapped in slavery today. Twenty-one million people -- mostly women and girls -- that are deprived of a choice when it comes to deciding on how to make a living. And this is outrageous. Fortunately, the world agrees and a legally binding Protocol was adopted last in Geneva to strengthen efforts to eliminate all forms of modern slavery. A very important step in the right direction.

Now it's time for all of us to help end this shameful reality and free those 21 million from their bondage.