The number of people forced to work or in a marriage against their will has surged in recent years to around 50 million on any given day, the UN's International Labour Organization (ILO) said on Monday upon releasing its modern slavery report.
Crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic, armed conflicts and climate change have led to unprecedented disruption to employment and education while exacerbating extreme poverty and forced migration, the agency said.
Compared to the last count for the year 2016, the number of people in modern slavery has risen by around 9.3 million.
According to the latest figures, forced labour accounted for 27.6 million of those in modern slavery in 2021, more than 3.3 million of whom are children, and forced marriage for 22 million.
The ILO found that more than half of all forced labour occurred in either upper-middle income or high-income countries, with migrant workers more than three times as likely to be affected.
The report made mention of Qatar, which has faced widespread allegations of labour rights violations relating to migrants working there in the run up to the FIFA soccer World Cup, starting in November.
But since the ILO opened an office in the capital Doha in April 2018, there had been "significant progress" regarding the living and working conditions for hundreds of thousands of migrant workers in the country, even as problems remained with implementing new labour rules, the report said.
Qatar 2022 Chief Executive Nasser Al Khater Qatar said on Thursday the country had faced a lot of unfair criticism over its hosting the World Cup that was not based on facts but it that it had responded to any fair criticism.
The ILO report also pointed to concern about forced labour in parts of China.
It referred to a report released by the UN's human rights commissioner on Aug. 31 that said "serious human rights violations" had been committed in China and that the detention of Uyghurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang may constitute crimes against humanity.