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New Study Shows Modern Slavery Exists in Almost Every Country in the World

By Shola Adenekan

Wednesday, June 15, 2016.

Slavery is truly well and alive, according to a new study. The survey by the Walk Free Foundation finds that there are almost 50 million people caught in modern slavery in 167 countries across the world. The foundation’s 2016 Global Slavery Index points out that many of these people include millions of children who have been enslaved through "human trafficking, forced labour, debt bondage, forced or servile marriage or commercial sexual exploitation."

The report notes that countries such as Jamaica and Brazil are making strong efforts despite having relatively less resources than wealthier countries, while the governments taking the least action include countries in the Middle East and a few African countries. It states that the ten countries with the largest estimated absolute numbers of people in modern slavery include some of the world’s most populous countries: India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Uzbekistan, North Korea, Russia, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Indonesia.

Walk Free Foundation argues that its Global Slavery Index is based on state of the art research methodology that has been developed with the assistance of an independent Expert Working Group, comprised of world leading experts. The methodology, it says, has also been subjected to independent external review. This estimate is based on data from nationally-representative, random sample surveys conducted in 25 countries. All surveys were conducted face-to-face in key local languages using a standardised instrument. Collectively, these surveys represent 44 percent of the global population. The results of these surveys have been extrapolated to countries with an equivalent risk profile.

According to the foundation, Asia, the most populous region in the world, has an estimated two thirds of the total number of people in modern slavery. This region provides low-skilled labour for the production stage of global supply chains for industries including food production, garments and technology.

Despite having the lowest regional prevalence of modern slavery in the world, the study says Europe remains a source and destination for forced labour and commercial sexual exploitation. While the impact of the massive influx of migrants and refugees in 2015 and 2016 remains to be seen, it is already clear that this group is highly vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.

In Russia and Eurasia, cases of state-sponsored forced labour have been documented in several countries, including in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Reports suggest instances of forced labour and recruitment of children for armed conflict in Ukraine.

Africa, south of the Sahara, accounts for approximately 15 percent of the world's total enslaved population. Escalation of violence in Nigeria following the Boko Haram conflict has sparked a humanitarian crisis in neighbouring countries. According to the study, new figures from South Africa confirms the existence of forced labour in the commercial sex industry, construction, manufacturing and factory work, and drug trafficking.

Slavery is abhorrent, more rampant than at any time in history, and entirely avoidable,” says Andrew Forrest, the founder and chairman of Walk Free Foundation. “Unlike major world epidemics such as malaria and HIV/AIDS, slavery is a human condition of our own making.”

Forrest argues that slavery and its components, forced labour and trafficking, are the ultimate economic negative multipliers.  

“Slavery is an evil and corrupt practice,” he says. “The sovereign leaders and corporations, who signal they have had enough of slavery in their social systems and are prepared to move quickly to eradicate slave masters and incarcerate those who continue to practice after warnings, will send the best possible economic signals to the investment world. I can confidently state that there is no shortage of capital in the world, but there is a dearth of responsible, attractive investment destinations.”

Similar sentiment as Forrest’s has been expressed by the United Nations (UN), which previously pointed out that various international agreements define slavery and human trafficking as a crime against humanity punishable by international laws.

“An international legally binding protocol is essential to fight forced labour and hold perpetrators accountable, so its immediate implementation will be crucial,” the UN says.


New Study Shows Modern Slavery Exists in Almost Every Country in the World

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