European Commission moves to ban products made with forced labour on the EU market

In a recently published new report on ‘Global Estimates of Modern Slavery. Forced labor and forced marriage’ the International Labour Organisation (ILO) offers an overview of the diffusion of modern forms of slavery in the world, i.e. forced labor and forced marriage. The report shows that in 2021, 50 million people in the world lived in a condition of modern slavery. Over the past five years, forced labor and forced marriages have increased – compared to 2016, people in modern slavery have increased by 10 million.

This is not a phenomenon confined to the poorest countries of the world. Indeed, more than half (52%) of all forced labor and 1/4 of all forced marriages are in upper-middle-income or high-income countries.

With specific reference to forced labour, most cases are concentrated in the private sector (86%). Another alarming figure concerns child exploitation: almost one in eight people in forced labour is a child (3.3 million) and more than half of these are victims of exploitation.

What are European Union (EU)’s Member States doing to face such concerning data?

In September 2022, the European Commission (EC) proposed a Regulation to prohibit products made with forced labour on the EU market. The proposal covers all products, namely those made in the EU for domestic consumption and exports and imported goods. The proposal builds on internationally agreed definitions and standards and underlines the importance of close cooperation with global partners. National authorities will be empowered to withdraw from the EU market products made with forced labour, following an investigation. EU customs authorities will identify and stop products made with forced labour at EU borders.

You can read the English version of the full proposal at the official site of the EC:

How will the Regulation be applied?

National authorities in the Member States would implement the prohibition through a robust, risk-based enforcement approach. In a preliminary phase, they would assess forced labour risks based on different sources of information. The authorities would start investigations on products for which there are well-founded suspicions that they have been made with forced labour – they can request information from companies and carry out checks and inspections, including in countries outside the EU. If national authorities find forced labour, they will order the withdrawal of the products already placed on the market, and prohibit to place the products on the market, and to export them. Companies would be required to dispose of the goods. Member States’ customs authorities would oversee enforcement at the EU borders. If the national authorities cannot gather all the evidence they require, for instance due to the lack of cooperation by a company or a non-EU state authority, they can take the decision based on the available facts.

Next steps

The proposal now needs to be discussed and agreed by the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union before it can enter into force. It will apply 24 months after its entry into force.

We will keep you updated on the topic. For any questions, please write to us at or call us on +39 338 1530687. We will be happy to clarify all your questions and provide you with any assitance required.

Fiat Lux Legal

Avv. Federica Loreti