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Potential Impacts of COVID-19 on Modern Slavery

To support our partners to better understand how COVID-19 may impact modern slavery, the Partnership developed a summary outlining three main potential impacts modern slavery.

Drawing on our shared experience and knowledge, SYMSP suggest these broad impacts may include:

Increased risks for those already in situations of modern slavery  

  • Restriction of movement.
  • Increased isolation for victims.
  • Movement of victims into different sectors where there is an increased demand.
  • Exploitation occurring in unsafe conditions.
  • Increased vulnerability – homelessness, debt bondage.

Changes in services and possibility of intervention

  • Reduction of face-to-face services leading to a reduction in opportunities to intervene.
  • Barriers to accessing services – as things moved online.
  • Key services move attention away from modern slavery to focus on COVID-19.
  • Large number of people relying on government services may disappear once this ends.

Increased vulnerability leading to more exploitation

  • Increased financial insecurity – people may be more willing to accept precarious and potentially exploitative work.
  • People may be unable to pay bills and therefore more likely to accrue debt, leaving them at-risk of exploitation.
  • Businesses/consumers looking to cut costs – turning to cheaper services which may be using exploited workers.
  • Reduction in availability of work – employees may feel unable to complain/whistle blow.


It’s widely agreed that the full impacts of COVID-19 on modern slavery will not be fully understood for a while, but we continue to work in partnership.


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