Key statistics

Just Kai frequently quotes three numbers:

  • around 40 million people are in slavery today;
  • of those people, around 7 million are making physical goods for sale;
  • around 20% of cocoa is produced by children.

Where do these numbers come from? As forced and child labour are almost-universally illegal, the numbers come from investigations and NGOs rather than official government statistics. In addition, except for the first, they are numbers we have derived from published statistics. Here’s how that was done.

Around 40 million people are in slavery today

This number is easy. It is directly taken from the 2018 Global Slavery Index, where they estimate 40.3 million people are in slavery (see page 4 of their ’highlights’).

They also note that 15.4 million of these people are in forced marriages, with the remainder in forced labour.

Around 7 million slaves are making physical goods for sale

In 2017, the International Labour Organisation and the Walk Free Foundation (the people who do the Global Slavery Index) produced a report entitled Global estimates of modern slavery: forced labour and forced marriage.

  • on page 29 of that report, it says that 16 million people are enslaved in the private sector in industries other than the sex industry.
  • on page 32 it lists the percentage of those 16 million who are involved in various specific industries. We have picked out the following as being people involved in the production of physical goods for sale:

    • manufacturing, 15% (i.e. approx 2.4 million)
    • agriculture, forestries and fishing, 11% (i.e. approx 1.8 million)
    • wholesale and trade, 9% (approx 1.4 million)
    • mining and quarrying, 4% (approx 0.6 million)
  • adding those up gives you 6.2 million people. That’s less than 7 million, but doesn’t yet include everyone…
  • on page 41 of the same report it says 4 million people are enslaved by their governments, and states one of the major occupations of such people being cotton-picking. The International Labour Organisation estimates at least a third of a million people are forced to harvest cotton by their governments. So that takes it over 6.5 million people.
  • there aren’t detailed breakdowns of what the remainder of those 4 million people enslaved by their governments are doing. We do know that 64% of them are doing economic development activities (the cotton-pickers will come under this), and that this includes a variety of industrial and agricultural activities, as well as involvement in infrastrcture projects like road-building. It seems conservative to assume that at least 10% of them will be engaged in industrial and agricultural activities - this takes us up to ‘around 7 million’. We do understand that this last step is the least robust in our chain.
  • Mark Devadason of The Mekong Club (a Hong Kong-based anti-slavery NGO) also used the 7 million figure in this interview on National Radio earlier this year, although he didn’t cite a source and we can’t find one on the Mekong Club’s website.

Other sectors responsible for enslaving significant proportions of the 25 million people in forced labour are the sex industry (5 million), domestic service (3.8 million), construction (2.9 million), accommodation and food service (1.6 million) and the military (0.6 million). All figures except the sex industry one come from multiplying percentages and absolute numbers from the report mentioned at the beginning of this section.

Around 20% of cocoa is produced by children

This number is derived from numbers given in the 2018 Global Slavery Index. In their cocoa section (pages 56-58 of the physical report) we learn:

  1. 60% of the world’s cocoa comes from Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire.
  2. In Ghana, 1.1 million adults work in the cocoa industry, as do 708,000 children. This gives a total workforce of 1.8 million people, of whom 39% are children.
  3. In Côte d’Ivoire, 2.3 million adults work in the cocoa industry, as do 891,000 children. This gives a total workforce of 3.2 million, of whom 28% are children.

From these numbers, we have calculated that 19% of the world’s cocoa is produced by children in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire:

(708,000 + 891,000)/(1,100,000 + 708,000 + 2,300,000 + 891,000)*0.6

However, this doesn’t represent all the cocoa produced by children. Detailed numbers for other countries aren’t available, but the US Department of Labour tells us that child labour also occurs in the cocoa industries of Brazil, Cameroon, Guinea, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. They tell us that at least 8,000 children work in the Brazilian cocoa industry, although prevalence data for the other countries isn’t given.

Even if the prevalence of child labour in these countries is low, it can’t be negligible, otherwise the US DoL wouldn’t have noticed it. So, we are assuming at least a futher 1% of global cocoa is produced by kids in these countries, bringing us to our figure of ‘around 20%‘.

Anecdotally, we have heard from a cocoa plantation owner in Brazil that child labour is near-universally practised on cocoa farms there, so we feel our number is likely an under-estimate.