The Australian Government has joined the international community in supporting the adoption of a new International Labour Organization Protocol seeking to eliminate forced labour, including human trafficking and slavery.

Despite efforts to reduce and prevent forced labour over many years, at least 20.9 million people still experience forced labour each year, with over half (11.7 million) of these people coming from the Asia-Pacific region. Fifty-five percent of victims are women and girls, and one quarter of victims are under the age of 18.

The new Protocol supplements the Forced Labour Convention 1930 (No. 29) which Australia ratified in 1932. The new Protocol encourages practical measures aimed at preventing forced labour as well as measures to protect and assist victims of forced labour.

Australia chaired the Committee on Forced Labour at the Conference, and the Australian delegation were active and influential participants in the drafting process. The Protocol and Recommendation was also strongly supported by the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The Australian Government takes a comprehensive, whole-of-government and cross-regional approach to combating human trafficking and slavery, including for forced labour. In Australia, human trafficking and slavery are criminal offences which capture all forms of exploitation, with support available for victims regardless of their sex, gender, nationality or the industry in which they were exploited.

The Australian Government acknowledges that even though Australia has strong legal protections to prevent and prosecute forced labour on our shores, it continues to be a significant problem for many countries, including in the Asia-Pacific region.

Australia was re-elected to the Governing Body of the International Labour Organization earlier this month. Australia will represent the Far-East Asia Sub Pacific Group of countries on the Governing Body for a three-year term until 2017. The ILO is responsible for setting international labour standards, relying on cooperation between governments, employers’ and workers’ organisations to foster social and economic progress.

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