35.8m People Enslaved on Land, at Sea

By MarEx 2014-11-23 16:56:00

An estimated 35.8 million men, women and children around the world are today trapped in modern slavery, 20 percent more than previously estimated, whether through human trafficking, forced labor, debt bondage, forced or servile marriage or commercial sexual exploitation. This is according to the 2014 Global Slavery Index (GSI), the flagship research report published today by the Walk Free Foundation, a global human rights organization with a mission to end modern slavery in a generation.

Slavery exists in each of the 167 countries included in the Index. Mauritania has the highest proportion (prevalence) of its population in modern slavery, at 4 percent, followed by Uzbekistan (3.97 percent), Haiti (2.3 percent), Qatar (1.36 percent) and India (1.14 percent).

In terms of absolute numbers, India remains top of the list with an estimated 14.29 million enslaved people, followed by China (3.24m), Pakistan (2.06m), Uzbekistan (1.2m, new to the top five), and Russia (1.05m). Together these account for 61 percent of the world’s modern slavery, or nearly 22 million people.

While the Index estimates that 20 percent more people are enslaved than reported in 2013, rather than reflecting an exponential rise in the number enslaved over the past year, this significant increase is due to enhanced data and methodology. This includes national representative surveys in some of the countries worst afflicted.

Commenting on the report’s findings, Andrew Forrest, chairman and founder of Walk Free Foundation, said: “There is an assumption that slavery is an issue from a bygone era. Or that it only exists in countries ravaged by war and poverty. These findings show that modern slavery exists in every country. We are all responsible for the most appalling situations where modern slavery exists and the desperate misery it brings upon our fellow human beings. The first step in eradicating slavery is to measure it. And with that critical information, we must all come together – governments, businesses and civil society – to finally bring an end to the most severe form of exploitation”

An innovation of the 2014 Global Slavery Index is its inclusion of government actions in relation to modern slavery. For the first time, the GSI provides an analysis of government responses based on five objectives that every country should seek to accomplish in order to eradicate modern slavery.  These include identification and support for survivors, an appropriate criminal justice mechanism, coordination and accountability within central government, addressing the attitudes, social systems and institutions that facilitate modern slavery and finally government and business procurement.

“Modern slavery is a hidden crime and notoriously difficult to measure. But Walk Free Foundation is shining a light on this horrific crime with innovative research and each year an even stronger methodology. We are all grateful for Andrew Forrest’s commitment to this issue”, said Mo Ibrahim, founder of the Mo Ibrahim Index and Mo Ibrahim Foundation.

The Index gives the most accurate and comprehensive measure of the extent and risk of modern slavery. It provides an analysis of its prevalence in terms of the percentage of a national population and the total number of people enslaved – country by country, region by region.

Iceland and Luxembourg have the lowest number of  people enslaved in both prevalence and in absolute numbers, estimated at less than 100 each, closely followed by Ireland with under 300.

An innovation of the 2014 Global Slavery Index is its inclusion of government actions to eradicate modern slavery. Countries identified as leading the fight to end modern slavery include The Netherlands, Sweden, the United States, Australia, Switzerland, Ireland, Norway, the United Kingdom, Georgia and Austria. Taking relative economic capacity into account the list extends to include The Philippines and Jamaica, both with strong criminal justice systems, and Macedonia, which provides strong support services for identified victims of modern slavery.

Some countries with the biggest challenges are also taking important steps to tackle the problem. India, the country with the highest number enslaved, has for example strengthened its criminal justice framework through legislative amendments and has increased the number of its Anti-Human Trafficking Police Units.

Government procurement and corporate supply chains: No country has a fully comprehensive response to modern slavery, but many countries have developed a national action plan and nearly all are involved in relevant regional response.  Some also have a national coordination body.  However the International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates the vast majority of forced labor occurs in the private economy. Only three of the 167 governments are making some effort to address modern slavery in government procurement and in the supply chains of businesses operating in their countries. These are: the United States; Brazil and Australia.

Those countries with the weakest responses to modern slavery in 2014 are: North Korea; Iran; Syria; Eritrea; the Central African Republic; Libya; Equatorial Guinea; Uzbekistan; the Republic of the Congo; and Iraq.

"The profiling by the Global Slavery Index of the scale of modern slavery is one which is much needed for global awareness for an issue that touches all continents,” says David Hammond, barrister a founder of Human Rights at Sea. “Modern slavery occurs, however, not just on land, but at sea within the international maritime industry and including the international fishing industry. Human Rights at Sea with its global partner organizations and NGO supporters will continue to profile, campaign for and highlight the maritime slavery issue and which is one that must be included in all future statistics. 

“The newly proposed HRAS flagship program, the "Missing Seafarers Reporting Programme" as a global index, state by state, of missing individuals lost at sea and which it is envisaged will include individuals who are subject to slavery and who have been trafficked against their will, will provide a new source of empirical and statistical evidence to support the likes of the Global Slavery Index”. 

For ThomasThomas Harré, part of the legal team at Slave Free Seas, the Global Slavery Index provides an insight into the different forms of exploitation taking place around the world. "It is certainly very useful as a tool to assist in advocacy efforts on behalf of those who are subjected to these types of exploitation, and as a tool to raise awareness in the general public about exploitation. It is important to remember though that by its nature, human trafficking is a crime that cannot be accurately quantified. The figures arrived at by the drafters of the report are interesting, but not necessarily reflective of the scale of the problems.

"Further, Slave Free Seas believes strongly in the importance of taking a principled legal approach to issues of exploitation in the fishing industry. The term 'modern slavery' makes reference to a legal standard of exploitation that may be much higher than what is currently set as the international law of human trafficking. In our work with trafficked fishermen, Slave Free Seas seeks to work within the established law of human trafficking to help obtain remedies for victims of labour exploitation at sea."

The Global Slavery Index report highlights three countries in particular where slavery at sea is occurring:

Indonesia: Forced labor of both children and adults is used in the fishing industry, including on boats, in factories, and on jermal (fishing platforms), or offshore live-in fishing vessels.

Netherlands: In 2012, an investigation of inland shipping vessels uncovered Filipino workers exploited on sham contracts and paid a monthly wage of $US400.

Thailand: The US$7 billion Thai fishing industry has been under intense scrutiny with credible reports of young men and boys enduring brutal treatment that includes severe and frequent physical abuse and threats, excessive work hours, and long periods at sea. Victims have reported witnessing captains physically abuse, murder, or abandon workers who fall overboard. In an ILO survey of almost 600 fishers employed on Thai boats fishing in Thai and international waters, 16.9 percent of those surveyed identified themselves as being unable to leave their work due to threat of penalty, that is, they are in forced labor. Within the survey sample, ten percent of fishers reported having been severely beaten on board, although not necessarily by their current employer.

About the Index: The Global Slavery Index was created in consultation with an international panel of experts from international organizations, think tanks and academic institutions.  The Index has been endorsed by individuals including Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Former Prime Ministers Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Julia Gillard; and leading philanthropists, Bill Gates, Sir Richard Branson and Mo Ibrahim, as well as academics, business leaders, and policy makers.

Research for the Index was undertaken by teams in Australia, the US and in the UK. The increase in the total figures recorded in the 2014 Report is primarily due to increased resources in improving the methodology, including nationally representative random-sample surveys undertaken in seven countries, which provided data points for ten countries. In addition, the teams obtained data from a further nine random sample surveys, increasing the number of survey countries to a total of 19. These surveys have enabled Walk Free Foundation to have a more precise measurement of the number of people enslaved.

About the Walk Free Foundation: The Walk Free Foundation is a global organization with a mission to end modern slavery in our generation by mobilizing a global activist movement, generating the highest quality research, enlisting business and raising unprecedented levels of capital to drive change in those countries and industries bearing the greatest responsibility for modern slavery today. The Walk Free Foundation will do this by:

 * Identifying countries and industries most responsible for modern slavery;
 * Identifying and implementing with partners the interventions in those countries and industries that will have the greatest impact on modern slavery; and
 * Critically assessing the organization’s impact.

The 2014 Global Slavery Index report can be found here