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Nowadays, you can traffic someone any distance, and at minimal cost, inside a day – generating thousands, tens of thousands – or, in the case of sex-trafficking, hundreds of thousands – of dollars a year for each slave.

In the International Labour Organisation's May 2014 report, Profit and Poverty: The Economics of Forced Labour, it is estimated that $150bn (£892m) in profits is generated annually from forced labour. Hundreds of billions of dollars more are generated by child labourers and other workers who are exploited in severely harmful and abusive conditions.

On average, a forced labourer generates about $8,000 profit annually for his or her exploiters. I calculate the average one-off cost of a slave today is $450. The transformation of the global slave trade from a high-cost, slow-recruitment business to a low-cost, rapid-recruitment one is driving criminal interest in trafficking and slavery, which is why it is permeating every corner of the global economy.

These profits feed into every level of a commodity's supply chain – from the local factory owner, to the middlemen and wholesalers, all the way to retailers in developed economies seeking to be competitive on price for consumers who demand the lowest cost possible. The vulnerable and desperate of the world have become an expendable sub-class of people whose labour is extracted in slave-like conditions in order to feed cheap goods – from seafood and rice to tea and coffee, minerals and apparel to mobile phones and commercial sex – into the global economy.
A global economy untainted by slavery? It can happen – and here's how...
| Siddharth Kara | Global development | theguardian.com

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