The first edition of the Global Slavery Index finds that approximately 30 million people worldwide live in modern slavery conditions. Ten countries, India, China, Pakistan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Russia, Thailand, Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar, and Bangladesh, account for 76 percent of the total estimate of enslaved people.
According to the report, modern slavery includes “slavery, slavery-like practices (such as debt bondage, forced marriage and sale or exploitation of children), human trafficking and forced labour, and other practices described in key international treaties, voluntarily ratified by nearly every country in the world.”
Some people are still being born into hereditary slavery, especially in parts of West Africa and South Asia. Modern slavery includes child victims used in armed conflict, victims kidnapped and sold or exploited, and many other forms of unpaid, forced labor. According to the report,
Modern slavery is poorly understood, so it remains hidden within houses, communities and worksites. Criminals are creative and will use any available means to conceal, rationalise, and justify slavery – be it race, ethnicity, religion, gender, caste, ‘custom’ or any other excuse or vulnerability they can exploit. Modern slavery is not always as self-evident as some other crimes, such as homicide or even theft. Modern slavery involves an extreme abuse of power, which is not always immediately apparent but requires understanding the people and the relationships involved.
The Index provides a ranking of 162 countries around the world based on a combination of three factors: “estimated prevalence of modern slavery by population, a measure of child marriage, and a measure of human trafficking in and out of a country.”
It estimates that 72.14 percent of the total 29.8 million people in modern-day slavery are in Asia, 16.36 percent are in Sub-Saharan Africa, 3.36 percent are in Russia and Eurasia, and 2.54 percent are in the Middle East and North Africa. India was found to have the highest number of enslaved people – between 13,300,000 and 14,700,000.
Researchers note, however, that many Indian states are as populous as entire countries. They comment that the biggest problem is the exploitation of Indian citizens through the historical practice of debt bondage and bonded labor – the most widely used method of enslavement.
China ranked second to India for the largest number of enslaved people. An estimated 2,800,000 to 3,100,000 citizens living in modern-day slavery conditions includes “the forced labour of men, women and children in many parts of the economy, including domestic servitude and forced begging, the sexual exploitation of women and children, and forced marriage.”
The West African nation of Mauritania was found to have the highest prevalence of slavery. An estimated 140,000 to 160,000 people are enslaved in Mauritania – a country with a population of 3.8 million. Mauritania, described as a nation with “deeply entrenched hereditary slavery,” has high levels of child marriage and human trafficking.
Haiti is second in prevalence of slavery. The natural disaster and conflict-ridden nation has “deeply entrenched practices of child slavery,” high levels of child marriage, and high levels of human trafficking. Children are the most vulnerable to modern slavery in Haiti. Many children suffer from neglect, food and water deprivation, and constant physical and emotional abuse.
Countries with the lowest prevalence of modern slavery include the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Iceland (all ranking 160). The Index notes that despite ranking third lowest, the United Kingdom has between 4,200 and 4,600 enslaved people
The United States ranks 134 in prevalence of slavery. Though it is described as a prime destination for human trafficking, it also scores very low on overall risk, partly due to a very strong slavery policy. Canada, Nicaragua, Argentina, and Brazil, along with the United States, have the best rankings on slavery policy. Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, and Cuba have the worst.
The worst ten countries have some shared characteristics including a very low GDP per capita and low levels of human development (including factors like availability of health care, education, and income levels). In many of the countries, a major problem is that forms of slavery are culturally tolerated and endemic. Almost every country in the group has prevalent and largely-tolerated child and forced marriage and has weak or non-existent protections for children.
The Global Slavery Index was published by the Walk Free Foundation (WFF), with the intention of informing and empowering groups working on the issue of modern slavery, and encouraging governments to step up their efforts to eliminate all forms of slavery.
Paramount to addressing the issue of modern-day slavery, researchers say, is to make governments aware of its prevalence. Only governments can enact and enforce laws that protect victims and allocate resources for their citizens’ protection. Individuals, civil society organisations, trade unions, and businesses are also key.
“A lot of governments won’t like hearing what we have to say,” WFF chief executive Nick Grono told the Agence France-Presse (AFP). “A lot of people are very surprised to hear that slavery still exists.”
“People are controlled by violence,” Grono said. “They are tricked or they are forced into jobs or situations where they are economically exploited. They live on no pay or base subsistence pay and they’re not free to leave.”
The WFF was established last year and is based in Perth, Australia. Their Index project is backed by former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Ex-Prime Minister of Britain, Tony Blair, the current Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, as well as Bill Gates, Richard Branson, and Mo Ibrahim, the AFP reports.
The Walk Free Foundation partnered with leading anti-slavery activist groups, Humanity United and the Legatum Foundation, to create an effort to raise money to combat modern slavery. Their collaboration, deemed “The Freedom Fund,” aims to increase “anti-slavery initiatives and enable the scaling up of successful programs globally.”
Visit The Freedom Fund to assist in the effort to “measurably reduce modern slavery by 2020.”