Country Study
39 of 167Prevalence Index Rank


  • 736,100 Estimate number living in Modern Slavery
  • 0.29% Estimate percentage of population living in Modern Slavery
  • 42.22/100 Vulnerability to Modern Slavery
  • B Government Response Rating
  • 257,564,000 Population
  • $10,517 GDP (PPP)


How many people are in modern slavery in Indonesia?

Victims of modern slavery in Indonesia included men, women and children. Exploitation was characterised by the trafficking of vulnerable migrants, forced labour and the commercial sexual exploitation of both adults and children. According to Walk Free survey data, forced labour was most common in the farming/fishing sectors and the construction sector. However, given that the International Organisation for Migration assisted 202 domestic workers during the reporting period,[15] the actual proportion of domestic workers is expected to be significantly higher.

Country Findings of Prevalence


Estimate number enslaved

Evidence of human trafficking has been reported in each of Indonesia’s provinces.[16] A lack of labour inspections in small plantations,[17] along with inadequate birth registration[18] are reported to contribute to the worst forms of child labour in the palm oil industry – specifically, exposure to dangerous heat levels, the need to carry heavy loads and a lack of adequate rest periods.[19] Although the government recently imposed a moratorium on new plantation licenses,[20] this was done to protect the environment[21] rather than reduce the prevalence of these practices.

The exploitation of fishermen continued to be identified.[22] It has been reported that fishermen have been trafficked from Myanmar, Laos, Thailand and Cambodia to remote Indonesian fishing ports, where they are subjected to slavery-like conditions.[23] A year-long Associated Press investigation illustrated that seafood produced through Indonesian slavery in Benjina has been laundered into global supply chains.[24]

The sexual exploitation of adults and children has also been reported. In West Java, the media has reported on families selling their daughters into prostitution in exchange for housing construction.[25] In 2014, Indonesia became the most popular destination for Australian tourists engaging in the commercial sexual exploitation of children.[26] Indeed, an Australian tourist was recently arrested in Bali for a number of these offences, two of which were allegedly committed in 2015.[27] The commercial sexual exploitation of children has also been identified as a problem in the Riau islands and West Papua.[28]

Indonesian migrant workers have been exploited overseas in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, the Pacific Islands and North America.[29] There are also reports of Indonesian girls being trafficked for sexual exploitation in Malaysia, Taiwan and the Middle East.[30]

Indonesian Government acts against forced labour in fishing

In 2015, Indonesian authorities, with the assistance of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), rescued over 2,000 trafficked foreign fisherman from isolated areas of the country.[34] Rescue efforts began when the Associated Press revealed the inhumane conditions facing fisheries workers in Benjina, a remote outpost in Maluku province.

Following an initial government inspection, the site was raided and over 370 fishermen were transported to safety in Tual,[35] where the IOM conducted victim identifications and provided essential services including food, shelter, medical and psycho-social assistance.[36] This number grew to over 656 fishermen,[37] including children and the elderly. Further raids resulted in the rescue of 472 new victims[38] from the port of Ambon, from 77 of the estimated 230 vessels in the Ambon harbour.[39]

The aftermath of these events had highly positive impacts. All victims were either successfully repatriated or were in the process of being repatriated with the assistance of the IOM, their embassies and/or fishing companies.[40] IOM also identified and assisted foreign victims of trafficking detained in immigration detention centres and other locations around the country. Investigations resulted in the revocation of licenses for four business groups, 18 companies and 388 vessels by the Indonesian Government.[41] The company which operated the facilities on Benjina collapsed following these events,[42] and eight people, five foreign nationals and three Indonesians were jailed for terms of up to three years.[43]

Uzbekistan is the world’s sixth largest producer of cotton. During the annual cotton harvest, citizens are subjected to statesanctioned forced labour. Monitoring by international organisations has meant the government has begun to take steps to improve the situation, however, reports from the 2015 harvest estimate that over one million people were forced to work.

Photo credit, Simon Buxton/Anti-Slavery International


What factors explain or predict the prevalence of modern slavery in Indonesia?

A range of factors continue to expose Indonesians to modern slavery. Rising unemployment in 2015[31] combined with slowed job creation[32] pushed people into the informal sector domestically and encouraged some to seek overseas employment. While income inequality decreased, this was the result of high-income earners facing losses rather than low-income earners gaining ground.[33] Low-income earners are more likely to be involved in the informal sector,[34] which limits job security and access to legal redresses for exploitation.[35]

Average Vulnerability Score


When victims escape from slavery, there is evidence that some are confronted by a lack of services. Only 18 shelters exist across the country and only one shelter exists in Jakarta, which is currently inadequate to house the number of child trafficking victims in the area.[36]

Despite President Joko Widodo’s pledge to protect religious freedoms,[37] attacks against marginalised communities continued. Anti-LGBT sentiment rose among politicians,[38] and state-sanctioned discrimination against women[39] and religious minorities[40] continued. In a particularly disturbing incident, the highest-ranking official of Bangka Island ordered the expulsion of all Ahmadiyah Muslims (a minority, non-Sunni sect) by February 2016.[41] Similarly, government officials and the media encouraged the violent eviction of more than 7,000 Gafatar (another minority religious sect) from Kalimantan.[42]

From the 'Less than Human' series. A large cargo boat is seen in Songkla Port, Thailand. 09/03/2014. Photographer Chris Kelly worked undercover to expose the link between prawns being sold in big name supermarkets, and the slaves who live and work on Thai fishing boats miles out to sea.

Photo credit, Chris Kelly

Government Response

How is the Indonesia Government tackling modern slavery?

Despite the inherent difficulty of managing a highly populated archipelago, the Indonesian government maintained some efforts to combat Modern Slavery. As in 2014, anti-trafficking training was provided to Indonesia’s frontline police.[43] Training was also provided to Indonesian diplomatic staff in the Saudi Arabian consulate.[44] The latter is a significant development considering the scale of Indonesian migrant exploitation in the Kingdom. Despite a reduction in the number of recorded trafficking convictions,[45] the authorities disrupted several groups facilitating Modern Slavery, including one which exploited migrant fisherman[46] and another which trafficked up to 600 victims overseas.[47]

Government Response Rating


A number of successful initiatives continued. Indonesia continued to participate in the Australia-Asia Program to Combat Trafficking in Persons[48] (previously known as the Asia Regional Trafficking in Persons Project)[49] and the Bali Process[50] on counter-trafficking and irregular migration issues.[51] The Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection continued to manage victim service centres which operated on a mixture of public and private funding.[52] Additionally, a toll-free, 24-hour hotline continued to operate in the country.

The government has also taken positive steps towards protecting domestic workers. Following pressure from local and international organisations, including Walk Free, the Indonesian House of Representatives recommended the Domestic Workers Protection Bill for its list of priority legislation in 2016.[53] However, Indonesia has still neglected to ratify the International Labor Organization’s Domestic Workers’ Convention.[54] Additionally, while reports indicate that the moratorium on domestic workers travelling to the Middle East is now permanent,[55] NGOs have voiced fears that this will merely increase irregular migration.[56] Other weaknesses also remain in the government’s response. Adequate awareness-raising campaigns have not been distributed to the public. More alarmingly, there have been anecdotal reports of complicity in both overseas consulates[57] and government agencies.[58] Despite this, no such cases were investigated in 2015.

Rajshahi, Bangladesh, January 2013. Dipa is 13 years old and has been engaged in prostitution for five months. She used to go to school, but stopped in class three after her family could no longer afford to send her. Her two sisters are also engaged in prostitution, but clients prefer to visit Dipa as she is the youngest of the three. She gets between four or five clients and earns about 1,200 Taka (US$15) a day.

Photo credit, Pep Bonet/ NOOR


What do we recommend


  • Ratify and implement the Domestic Workers Convention (ILO 189) to ensure compliance with international standards.
  • Pass the Domestic Workers Protection Bill.
  • Ratify PO29 - Protocol of 2014 to the ILO Forced Labour Convention.
  • Increase the public’s awareness of modern slavery, and encourage the reporting of cases through campaigns and outreach programs about how to identify victims.
  • Undertake prevalence research into the extent of modern slavery in Indonesia.
  • Encourage private sector growth through micro-financing schemes, improving access to start-up loans and rural infrastructure to remove barriers to development.
  • Work with local and international NGOs to increase community and labour involvement in enforcing Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) standards.
  • Continue to investigate human trafficking cases in the fishing industry


  • Businesses with suppliers in high risk industries should undertake due diligence measures to identify any forced labour in their supply chains.
  • Work with the Government and local NGOs to adopt a ‘100 percent traceability’ protocol for all businesses that source palm oil and other high risk products from Indonesia to ensure that plantations do not use forced labour


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