Portugal reiterates its commitment to combat forced labour

January 18, 2021

Portugal ratified the ILO Protocol on forced labour, hence joining the 47 other countries that already committed to combat forced labour in all its forms.

Photo: Algarve coast, Portugal (© Federico Lorenzini)


On 23 December 2020, Portugal ratified the Forced Labour Protocol, demonstrating its firm commitment to combating forced labour in all its forms, including trafficking in persons and debt bondage. Through this ratification, Portugal commits to adopt effective measures to prevent forced labour, protect victims and ensure they have access to effective remedies, including compensation.

According to the ILO, about 25 million women, men and children are victims of forced labour worldwide. More than 16% are children. Forced labour is a lucrative business generating annual profits of $150,000 million in the private sector. Victims are subjected to violence, threats and coercion in different sectors of the economy, such as domestic work, construction, manufacturing, agriculture and fishing.

Portugal has been engaged in combatting trafficking in persons for a long time. As early as 2007, the country strengthened its legal framework and introduced its first national plan against trafficking in human beings. The current national plan (2018-2021) foresees a number of measures, including to improve data collection; promote a better monitoring of the formal and informal labour market and of recruitment agencies; strengthen the prevention of trafficking in supply chains and in public procurement; and improve victims’ access to justice and compensation. In this regard, along with the Network for Support and Protection to Victims of Trafficking (RAPVT), Portugal has established five specialized multi-disciplinary teams, which coordinate the assistance provided to victims of trafficking throughout the country.  The country has also set up an Observatory on Trafficking in Human Beings (OTSH), which produces and disseminates information on trafficking in persons with a view to improving the understanding of this phenomenon by the public and the competent authorities.

In November 2017, during the Global Conference on child labour and forced labour in Argentina, the European Union pledged to “promote actively swift ratification of the Forced Labour Protocol among EU members”. Now that Portugal has ratified, there are only nine EU member states  that are still to ratify the ILO Protocol on Forced Labour.