At least 12.3 million people are subjected to some form of forced labor. Meanwhile those who exploit them clear $44 billion in profits, rivaling the performance of the world's oil companies. These estimates come from a groundbreaking study conducted by the International Labor Organization (ILO), an arm of the United Nations. The ILO classifies forced labor into three categories: economic, state-imposed and sexual.
Economic exploitation, which accounts for 64 percent of the world total, occurs mostly in less developed countries and tends to affect the most marginalized, such as the lower castes of India and Pakistan and the indigenous peoples of Nepal and Brazil. Many of them are illiterate and understand little about their rights under the law. Hence, they are more likely to fall into servitude if they owe money to employers or landlords.