In an article from Pheobe Ewan, who is the Program director at Mekong club, that work to involve businesses in making this world slave free, she identifies multiple possible effects that the current pandemic can have on sex workers, also known as modern slavery. The possible effects she mentions will in this article be discussed and then analyzed on the basis of unemployment statistics from Sweden.
The most prominent reason that Ewan indicates for people to end up in the hands of human traffickers is financial desperation. If we compare this with the effects the pandemic outbreak has had on unemployment rates in Sweden, we might have a bigger issue ahead of us.
The Swedish bureau of statistics (SCB) released statistics regarding employment rates during 2020. The most striking data they show that relates to Ewans article is the disproportionate distribution of new unemployed. In the age category 15-24 year old, unemployment rose by 7,2 percentage points to 27,7%, and unemployment in the 25-34 year old category, rose by 4,2 percentage points to 10,6%. SCB also shows that unemployment rose disproportionately, and more people born outside of Sweden lost their jobs. Besides the direct problem of not having an income, SCB also states that during 2020, the risk of staying unemployed from one quarter to another rose from 53,5 percent risk in 2019 to 57,4 percent during 2020.
It does not take much thinking to realize that human trafficking, and foremost sex workers, would not be needed if it was not profitable for the traffickers. Without a demand from the “market” people would not be exploited, since it then would not be profitable. This is important to remember. But what Ewan also points out is that when people are pushed to financial desperation, caused by for example a pandemic that causes a financial disaster, human traffickers sees their opportunity to recruit new people to exploit.
What does all this mean? The rising unemployment in Sweden during the pandemic year 2020 indicates that there will be a rise in the number of women being exploited sexually. Based on Ewans article it means that in Sweden there is a great risk that the number of girls trapped in sexual exploitation will rise, especially regarding women born outside of Sweden, due to the increasing levels of unemployment in the below 34 year old category and people not born in Sweden. The pandemic has tested us all but some people are worse off than others and it is these people that traffickers drag into their industry. Ewan puts a lot of responsibility on the governments, and that it is their duty to financially support women so they do not end up in the sex industry but this is like trying to stop a raging fire with a glass of water. Modern slavery is an industry, that supply the demand from customers. People need to see the real issue and understand the main reason that people still to this day get exploited sexually. There is a demand for it. And this needs to stop. Years ago.
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Ewan, Pheobe (2021) - The Finance of Sex Trafficking and Impact of COVID-19: Journal of Modern Slavery, COVID-19 and MODERN SLAVERY
Statistikmyndigheten SCB- (2021) - The labour market during the COVID-19 pandemic