By the EESC Workers' Group

An ILO exhibition displayed at the EESC last December presented the best cartoons from an ILO competition conveying the harrowing stories of people trapped in forced labour all over the world. 

A staggering 27.6 million people were in situations of forced labour according to ILO's estimates for 2021.

People are subjected to all sorts of intimidation compelling them to work against their will, such as deliberate withholding of wages, threats of dismissal, forced confinement, physical and sexual violence. The list is very long. The phenomenon is widespread across the world and the situation has worsened with the COVID pandemic. Among the most vulnerable are children, women and migrant workers. According to ILO estimates, women and girls make up 11.8 million of the total number of people in forced labour. More than 3.3 million of all those in forced labour are children.

But facts and figures don't fully communicate the human story behind them. This is why an exhibition was hosted at the EESC at the initiative of the Workers' Group President, Oliver Röpke, in collaboration with the ILO. It gathered the best cartoons from an ILO competition conveying the experience of those trapped in such intolerable working conditions all over the world. 

Such initiatives lead us to reflect upon the actions that can be taken to end this scourge, such as addressing decent work deficits in the informal economy, as urged by the ILO. An ongoing EESC opinion by Workers' Group rapporteur Thomas Wagnsonner focuses on the prohibition of products made with forced labour on the Union market. During the opening of the exhibition, Workers' Group President Oliver Röpke said: "While this exhibition makes clear the hardship of those in forced labour, it also explores what we can do when we work together and take firm action – and we are taking action. It is for this reason that we want to see the ratification of the 2014 protocol to the ILO forced labour convention by all EU Member States!" (mg)