They clean and cook and sew and care for children. Their numbers are growing, and many of them have little legal protection. Many are slaves.

The dramatic growth in number of people working as domestic servants is documented in a report released today by the International Labor Organization (ILO), a branch of the United Nations. Researchers say the number of domestic workers has jumped by 19 million worldwide since the 1990s, and now stands at approximately 52 million. The ILO says 83 percent of them are women.

“Domestic workers are frequently expected to work longer hours than other workers and in many countries do not have the same rights to weekly rest that are enjoyed by other workers,” says ILO Deputy Director-General Sandra Polaski. “Combined with the lack of rights, the extreme dependency on an employer and the isolated and unprotected nature of domestic work can render them vulnerable to exploitation and abuse,” she said.

A domestic worker in India | Photo: Kay Chernush for Free the Slaves

Not all domestic workers are slaves. But the growing demand for household help, and increasing migration by women from impoverished rural areas to wealthier cities and countries, is causing a situation where trafficking and enslavement is more likely to occur.

“The precarious legal status of migrant domestic workers and their lack of knowledge of the local language and laws, make them especially vulnerable to abusive practices, such as physical and sexual violence, psychological abuse, non-payment of wages, debt bondage and abusive living and working conditions,” the ILO says.

Today’s report is called Domestic workers across the world: Global and regional statistics and the extent of legal protection.

It follows the June 2011 adoption of a new ILO Convention and Recommendation on domestic work.

Free the Slaves is working in several countries to confront various forms of domestic slavery.

You can read about our program to reduce child domestic slavery in Haiti here.

You can watch our documentary about undercover efforts in India to unmask traffickers posing as domestic labor recruiters, Fighting Domestic Slavery.

You can also watch our documentary about migrants who’ve come to the U.S. looking to work as domestic servants, Dreams Die Hard.

Slavery in this week’s news

We see slavery and trafficking stories throughout the world each week. It’s great news that journalists and bloggers are exposing the problem of slavery, and examining solutions to it. Awareness creates momentum for change. Here are 10 top stories that caught our eye:

1. Lancaster Online. “North Star Initiative formed to fight sex trafficking.” http://lancasteronline.com/article/local/797578_North-Star-Initiative-formed-to-fight-sex-trafficking.html#ixzz2GvHNy7Pv

2. The Voice of Russia . “Modern Slavery Chains 21 Million: International Labor Organization.” http://voicerussia.com/radio_broadcast/61124198/99820747.html

3. U.S. Department of Defense. “OD Heightens Training, Prevention to Target Human Trafficking.” http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=118894

4. White House. “Presidential Proclamation — National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, 2013.” http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/12/31/presidential-proclamation-national-slavery-and-human-trafficking-prevent/

5. Times of India. “One special court for human trafficking.” http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-12-31/mumbai/36078756_1_special-court-prevention-flesh-trade

6. NBC 11 Alive. “Passion 2013 tackles sex trafficking, slavery.” http://www.11alive.com/news/article/270773/40/Passion-2013-tackles-sex-trafficking-slavery

7. Relevant Magazine. “The State of Modern Slavery.” http://www.relevantmagazine.com/reject-apathy/loss-innocents/state-modern-slavery

8. The Wall Street Journal. “Treasury Places Sanctions on Armed Groups in Congo.” http://blogs.wsj.com/corruption-currents/2013/01/03/treasury-places-sanctions-on-armed-groups-in-congo/

9. New York Post. “City releases new anti-sex trafficking video for cabbies.” http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/cabby_hooker_lessons_rPlNarfRfyE3bb9k8XBFQP

10. Bank Credit News. “Conflict minerals provision of Dodd-Frank contains loophole for electronics companies.” http://bankcreditnews.com/news/conflict-minerals-provision-of-dodd-frank-contains-loophole-for-electronics-companies/6700/

Slavery in this Week’s News

We see slavery and trafficking stories throughout the world each week. It’s great news that journalists and bloggers are exposing the problem of slavery, and examining solutions to it. Awareness creates momentum for change. Here are 10 top stories that caught our eye:

1. Forbes. “Sweatshop: Exploiting Child Labor On The iPad.” http://www.forbes.com/sites/danielnyegriffiths/2012/12/11/sweatshop-littleloud-ipad/

2. The Times of India. “Experts recommend ways to check child labour in country.” http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-12-11/allahabad/35748980_1_child-labour-child-rights-rajiv-gandhi-chair

3. The Examiner. “Senator Coons urges passage of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.” http://www.examiner.com/article/senator-coons-urges-passage-of-the-trafficking-victims-protect-act

4. Trust Law. “Hundreds of thousands at risk of slavery in USA – former victim.” http://www.trust.org/trustlaw/news/hundreds-of-thousands-at-risk-of-slavery-in-usa-former-victim/

5. UNODC. “Webinar panellists call for partnerships in efforts to combat trafficking globally.” http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/human-trafficking/2012/webinar-panellists-call-for-partnerships-in-efforts-to-combat-trafficking-globally.html

6. BBC News. “Argentina sees protests after Marita Veron verdict.” http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-20705751

7. All Africa. “Congo-Kinshasa: DRC Govt, M23 in Closed-Door Talks.” http://allafrica.com/stories/201212140101.html

8. Press TV. “About one million people displaced by fighting in E Congo: UN official.” http://www.presstv.com/detail/2012/12/13/277905/914000-people-displaced-in-e-congo/

9. The Seattle Times. “Editorial: Backpage.com settlement doesn’t end sex-trafficking fight.” http://seattletimes.com/html/editorials/2019857384_editbackpagesettlementxml.html

10. The Washington Times. “Workers abused by immune diplomats.” http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/dec/13/workers-abused-by-immune-diplomats/

A roadmap to strengthen America’s efforts to combat modern slavery was delivered to the White House today. It’s called “The Path to Freedom.”

It’s filled with dozens of specific recommendations for the Obama administration’s second term. The report was prepared by the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking (ATEST) a coalition of leading anti-slavery groups, including Free the Slaves.

“The U.S. has been a global leader in fighting trafficking, but the number of people in slavery worldwide is the highest it’s ever been,” says FTS programs director Karen Stauss.

“What’s needed is a truly historic effort to end slavery once and for all,” she says. “The ‘Path to Freedom‘ lays out how the Obama administration can shape history by turning the tide on slavery in the next four years.”

In September, the president pledged during a speech at the Clinton Global Initiative to step-up anti-trafficking efforts. He issued an executive order to prevent trafficking by federal contractors, he promised to expand services for victims, and he committed to developing a long-term plan to combat trafficking.

ATEST’s “Path to Freedom” provides comprehensive, detailed steps that Obama can take to deliver on his pledge. These include:

  1. Begin immediately to work with Republicans and Democrats in Congress to reauthorize the lapsed Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), which provides critical resources and new tools in the fight against human trafficking and modern-day slavery.
  2. Develop a National Action Plan based on a “whole of government approach” that coordinates all available resources and tools instead of providing piecemeal solutions.
  3. Back up its commitment to fighting human trafficking and modern-day slavery with a Fiscal Year 2014 budget request that fully funds critical initiatives.
  4. Partner with willing countries to create innovative, focused and comprehensive approaches to combat human trafficking, forced labor, and other forms of modern-day slavery around the world.

“We hope they’ll answer the call. We’re ready to help,” Stauss says. “An important recommendation we’ve made, especially in the current economic climate, is that funds we are already spending on international development be leveraged to fight slavery and poverty at the same time — many of the same countries are highly vulnerable to both.”

Today’s release of “The Path to Freedom” comes as ATEST unveils its new website, filled with resources to guide policy makers. Check it out:

The new ATEST website is live today.

Slavery in this Week’s News

We see slavery and trafficking stories throughout the world each week. It’s great news that journalists and bloggers are exposing the problem of slavery, and examining solutions to it. Awareness creates momentum for change. Here are 10 top stories that caught our eye:

1. The Financial Times. “Rescue team [Challenging Heights].” http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/bb065486-37e8-11e2-b8d3-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2EBsd2gA3

2. First Post – India. “How surging demand for maids in India is leading to human trafficking.” http://www.firstpost.com/india/how-surging-demand-for-maids-in-india-is-leading-to-human-trafficking-544131.html

3. Voice of America. “MTV Takes on Human Trafficking.” http://www.voanews.com/content/raising-awarness-about-human-trafficking/1558851.html

4. The Washington Times. “Local nonprofit creates anti-trafficking program for schools.” http://communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/speaking-out/2012/dec/4/local-nonprofit-creates-anti-trafficking-program-s/

5. Women News Network. “HAITI: Exploited orphan girl ‘restaveks’ can face years of sex-trafficking.” http://womennewsnetwork.net/2012/12/05/haiti-exploited-girl-restaveks/

6. CNN Freedom Project. “From horror to hope: A boy’s remarkable recovery from brutal attack.” http://thecnnfreedomproject.blogs.cnn.com/2012/12/06/from-horror-to-hope-a-boys-remarkable-recovery-from-brutal-attack/

7. The Huffington Post. “Eastern Congo: Boy, 11, Becomes a Child Soldier on Way Home From School.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/martin-penner/child-soldiers-eastern-congo_b_2228749.html

8. Human Rights Watch. “A victory against modern day slavery.” http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/12/01/victory-against-modern-day-slavery

9. The Huffington Post. “Mira Sorvino, Human Trafficking Ambassador, Urges State Lawmakers To Step Up.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/06/mira-sorvino-human-trafficking-state-laws_n_2251629.html

10. USA Today. “Gordon Brown: Children lead the fight for equality.” http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2012/12/06/children-revolution-democracy-technology-aid/1749193/