A new report from the Australia-based Walk Free Foundation estimates that nearly 46 million men, women, and children across the globe are subject to modern slavery. This astounding figure indicates a significant increase in modern slavery from a previous projection just a few years ago.
The term “modern slavery” is defined differently than historical definitions of slavery in which people are viewed as owned property. Modern slavery refers to situations in which people are exploited, threatened, and coerced through power. Modern slavery describes victims of human trafficking, forced labor, debt bondage, commercial sex exploitation, and forced marriage.
The Walk Free Foundation released its second compilation of data since 2014 projecting the total number of estimated people enduring modern slavery around the world. The 2016 Global Slavery Index provides a country-by-country list of the number of people estimated to be modern slaves. The numbers are based on 42,000 interviews conducted in 53 languages in 167 countries. The improved methods and data collection indicate a 28 percent increase from the 2014 poll.
According to the report, more than half of the world’s enslaved peoples are located in only 5 countries. India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Uzbekistan were ranked as having the highest modern slave populations. North Korea was found to have the highest per capita level of modern slavery.
The countries with the lowest numbers are Luxembourg, Ireland, Norway, Denmark, Switzerland, Austria, Sweden, Belgium, the United States and Canada, While this might make a greater portion of the Western world look like the good guys, it should be noted that the labor in countries such as India and Pakistan produce consumer goods for markets in North America and Western Europe.
The Walk Free Foundation was founded in 2012 by Australian philanthropists Andrew and Nicola Forrest with the vision of ending modern slavery. In addition to the reported figures, the Global Slavery Index urges governments to take responsibility and intervene in situations where people are being exploited.
“We call on Governments of the top ten economies of the world to enact laws, at least as strong as the UK Modern Slavery Act 2015, with a budget and capability to ensure organizations are held to account for modern slavery in their supply chains, and to empower independent oversight.”
As noted by Kevin Bales, professor of Contemporary Slavery at the Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation at the University of Hull in the UK, the abolition of modern slavery not just important from a human rights standpoint, but will also help in caring for our planet as a whole. “Closing down slave-based logging, brick-making, mining, or charcoal production will not hurt our lifestyles or the global economy. What it will do is get people out of slavery and slow global warming and climate change—a classic win-win situation.”