October 18, 2013
Global Slavery Index Finds 30M People Enslaved Around The World
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
An estimated 30 million people around the world are living as slaves, according to a new Global Slavery Index study that ranks 162 countries on the number of people living in slavery, the risk of enslavement and the strength of government actions to combat the problem.
The report, released Thursday by the anti-slavery charity Walk Free Foundation, is the first annual index to track slavery on a global basis, and reveals an all-time high in the number of people living as slaves.
Many of the people living as slaves are women and children trafficked by gangs for sex work and unskilled labor, according to the report.
The figures show that India has the highest number of people living in conditions of slavery, at 14 million, while Mauritania in West Africa has the highest proportional figure, with roughly 4% of its population enslaved due to culturally endorsed forms of chattel slavery and high levels of child marriage.
The report shows that 10 countries - India, China, Pakistan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Russia, Thailand, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar and Bangladesh – account for 76 percent of the estimated 29.8 million people currently living in slavery.
The report defines modern slavery as human trafficking, forced labor, and practices such as debt bondage, forced marriage, and the sale or exploitation of minors.
The authors of the report said they hope the new index will help raise public awareness and increase pressure on governments to take action against this “hidden crime.”
Report author Kevin Bales, a professor of contemporary slavery at the University of Hull in England, rejects the idea that poverty is the primary factor behind slavery, and instead blames corruption and organized gangs.
"Consistently when we analyzed the statistics we found that corruption came out as more powerful than poverty in driving slavery," he told Reuters. "Fundamentally this is a violent crime issue."
The countries with the highest absolute numbers of slaves were India, with 14 million, and China, with 3 million.
"By far the largest proportion of this problem (in India) is the exploitation of Indian citizens within India itself, particularly through debt bondage and bonded labor," read the report.
In China, there was forced labor of men, women and children, including domestic servitude and forced begging, sexual exploitation of women and children, and forced marriage.
Iceland, Ireland and Britain ranked last in the index, but Bales emphasized that they were not slavery-free. Indeed, as many as 4,400 people are estimated to be enslaved in Britain, the victims of which come mainly from Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe. These victims are typically forced into domestic servitude, sex work or low paying jobs in construction, agriculture, restaurants and nail salons.