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The economic and social costs of modern slavery

Research Report 100

Authors: Sasha Reed, Stephen Roe, James Grimshaw and Rhys Oliver

The aim of this report is to estimate the cost of modern slavery in the UK in order to better understand the impact of this crime. By contributing to the evidence base in this way, the research is intended to inform the policy and operational response and better understand the value of preventative work.

This report follows the methodology used in ‘The Economic and Social Costs of Crime’ (Heeks et al., 2018) and adapts it where necessary to reflect some of the particular characteristics of this offence type.

The framework for estimating the cost of crime breaks down the costs into three distinct areas of cost:

• In anticipation (expenditure on protective and preventative measures).

• As a consequence, including physical and emotional harms, lost time and output, health and victim services.

• In response, including police costs and costs to the criminal justice system.

This same framework is adopted to estimate the costs of modern slavery with the same methods also generally applied within this framework; however, it has not been possible to estimate the costs to the criminal justice system.

Additional data was collected to fill evidence gaps, and adaptations were made to take into account particular features of modern slavery offences. In particular, to inform the costs, interviews with 17 support providers and four police officers were undertaken to provide estimates for the number of violent and sexual offences typically experienced by victims of modern slavery during their exploitation, as well as the duration of exploitation and the physical and emotional harms experienced. Findings from these interviews were then applied to the same Quality Adjusted Life Year (QALY) methodology for estimating the costs of the physical and emotional harms, and also used in the estimates of lost time and output, and health services. However, it should be noted that these findings rely on the perceptions of the interviewees of what constitutes a typical case of each type of modern slavery rather than being informed by a representative survey of actual victims (such as the Crime Survey for England and Wales that informs the cost of crime estimates).

For the purposes of this analysis, costs for three broad exploitation types – labour exploitation, domestic servitude and sexual exploitation – have been estimated.