What is modern slavery?

Modern slavery is exploiting people for personal or financial gain. People can become trapped in making our clothes, picking our crops and working in factories. They can be forced to become sex workers or work in houses as cooks, cleaners or nannies.

Victims can be any age, gender or from any country, including the UK. They might feel unable to leave because they are scared or owe money to their exploiter. Some might not think of themselves as a victim.

50 million

people worldwide are in modern slavery


people in the UK are in modern slavery

28 million

are in forced labour

Types of slavery

Forced labour

Someone is forced to work or provide a service against their will and for little or no wages. It is typical in industries where a lot of labour is needed, from clothing factories in Southeast Asia to fruit picking in the UK.

Human trafficking

Someone is moved by force, threats or deception in order to exploit them in some way. It can include being made to commit crimes such as drug dealing and foreign women being trafficked to the UK to work in the sex industry.

Bonded labour

Also known as “debt bondage”, this is the world’s most common form of slavery. It is when a person borrows money and has to work to pay off the debt. Often victims are trapped by exorbitant “interest” on the debt.

Child slavery

This can include forced labour or being made to work as a servant in a household, as in the case of Olympic athlete Sir Mo Farah. It includes children being forced to marry, or become sex workers or soldiers.

Criminal exploitation

Someone is forced to commit a crime such as growing cannabis, carrying drugs for County Lines gangs, or taking part in shoplifting or fraud. Victims can feel unable to escape because they are worried they might be prosecuted.

Forced marriage

An estimated 22 million people are living in forced marriages. These include people in upper-middle income and high-income countries. The true figure, however, particularly those of children aged 16 and under, is thought to be far greater.

Help stop slavery

Learn the signs

Learn the signs of slavery and how to report it

Learn the signs