Nearly 46 Million People Suffer Modern Slavery; North Korea, India Major Offenders

modern day slavery
Bonded child labourer, Pakistan. Photo: ILO/M.Crozet

There are almost 46 million people suffering in some form of modern slavery in 167 countries including North Korea and India, which are considered among the major offenders, according the 2016 Global Slavery Index.

Walk Free Foundation, a global organization with a mission to end modern slavery, together with Australian actor Russell Crowe launched the Global Slavery Index on Tuesday.

The organization reported that people born into servitude, tapped in debt bondage, or trafficked as sex slaves increased from 35.8 million in 2014 to 45.8 million this year.

Trapped in a cycle of despair

Crowe played the role Maximus, a Roman emperor-turned slave in the movie Gladiator. He described the situation of people “in our communities who are stuck, utterly helpless and trapped in a cycle of despair and degradation with no choice and no hope.”

Crowe added, “As an actor, my role is often to portray raw human emotion, but nothing compares with the people’s lives reflected in the report published today.” He believed that slavery is a problem that will not go away, and encourage people to focus on the problem.

Countries with the highest prevalence of modern slavery

Based on the estimate of the Walk Free Foundation, the countries with the highest prevalence of modern slavery include North Korea, Uzbekiztan, Cambodia, India, and Qatar. Fifty eight percent (58%) of those living in slavery globally are located in these countries.

Evidence of slavery is rampant in North Korea as the government implements an extensive system of forced labor in its prison labor camps; women are subjected to forced marriage and commercial sexual exploitation in China and neighboring countries.

The Global Slavery Index showed that 4.37% or 1.1 million people out of 25.15 million North Koreans are living in modern slavery.

The government of Uzbekiztan continues to subject its people to force labor during the annual cotton harvest. The country is the sixth largest producer of cotton worldwide. There are around 1.23 million or 3.9% of the 31.12 million people in Uzbekistan are estimated to be modern slaves.

In India, there are around 18.35 million people or 1.4% of its more than 1.3 billion population, are living in some form of slavery. In Cambodia, 256,800 or 1.64% of its 15.57 million people are living as slaves while 30,300 or 1.35 of Qatar’s 2.23 million people are subject to slavery.

UK passed the 2015 Modern Slavery Act

Andrew Forrest, a mining billionaire, philanthropist and founder of Walk Free Foundation, encouraged companies to check their supply chains for evidences of worker exploitation. According to him, he found that thousands of people trapped as slaves making products for his company Fostesque Metal Group were

During the launching of the Global Slavery Index in London, Forrest said some of the world’s biggest entrepreneurs looked at him in the eye and said, “I will not look for slavery in case I find it.”

Forrest added that he launched the Global Slavery Index in London to acknowledge the British government, which passed the 2015 Modern Slavery Act.

In addition to the United Kingdom, index showed that governments taking the most action to combat modern slavery include the Netherlands, United States, Sweden, Australia, Portugal, Croatia, Spain, Belgium, and Norway. These countries have strong political will, sufficient resources, and strong civil society to hold governments accountable.