A new estimate of global slavery calculates that 29.8 million men, women and children are enslaved worldwide.
The Global Slavery Index, released today by the Australian-based anti-trafficking group Walk Free, provides a first-of-its-kind country-by-country measure of the extent and risks of trafficking and slavery today.
“Since hidden slaves can’t be counted, it is easy to pretend they don’t exist, the Index aims to change that,” says FTS Co-founder Kevin Bales, who was the project’s lead researcher. Bales is now a professor at the Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation at the University of Hull in the U.K.
The Index reveals that the countries where Free the Slaves has focused its frontline work are among the world’s worst hotspots.
India has more slaves than anywhere else, thought the numerical rankings in the Index are based on the percentage of a country’s total population in slavery.
- Haiti is ranked number two, with an estimated 209,000 slaves (total population 10.2 million).
- India is number four, with 14 million in slavery (total population 1.2 billion).
- Nepal is number five, with 259,000 slaves (total population 27.5 million).
- Ghana is number 18, with 181,000 slaves (population 25.4 million).
- The Democratic Republic of the Congo is number 23, with 462,000 slaves (total population 65.7 million).
- Brazil is number 94, with 209,000 slaves (total population 197.8 million).
The six FTS frontline countries account for 71 percent of today’s slaves, according to Index statistics.
The Index ranked 162 countries in all. The U.S. comes in at number 134, with 60,000 slaves. The world’s worst country is Mauritania. Three countries tied for best: the United Kingdom, Ireland and Iceland.
“The Global Slavery Index is a stark reminder that modern-day slavery, a heinous violation of basic human rights, remains a pervasive problem demanding urgent action,” says FTS Executive Director Maurice Middleberg. “We commend the effort to create a more integrated barometer of the magnitude, risks and responses to slavery in specific nations. The Global Slavery Index is a welcome addition to the literature on slavery. It offers useful insights and underscores the need for systematic collection of primary data on slavery’s prevalence. The Global Slavery Index should compel national leaders to focus on finding durable solutions.”
The Index comes a year after the U.N. International Labor Organization estimated global slavery prevalence at 20.9 million people. The two studies included different numbers of countries, and counted different forms of slavery, providing a range of research now estimating that 21-30 million people are in trapped in various forms of slavery today.
The Index report goes beyond a global headcount to also evaluate risk factors for slavery and the strength of governmental responses in 40 countries. Risks include a country’s human rights record, level of economic development, governmental stability and discrimination against women.
The goal, says Walk Free CEO Nick Grono, is to “shape national and global efforts to root-out modern slavery across the world.” Walk Free plans to update the Index every year.