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The Global Slavery Index 2016

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The Global Slavery Index (‘the Index’) provides an estimate of the number of people in modern slavery, the factors that make individuals vulnerable to this crime, and an assessment of government action across 167 countries.

The 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 has also been subjected to independent external review. This estimate is based on data from nationallyrepresentative, 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.

The 2016 estimate is an increase on the estimate provided in the previous edition of the Index. As efforts to measure this hidden crime are still relatively new, we are not asserting that modern slavery has increased in the intervening period. Indeed, results from our surveys reveal some national estimates have increased while others have decreased. We believe that the overall larger number reflects a significant increase in the quality and quantity of research on this issue. While the methodology will continually improve, even at this early stage, survey data have greatly improved the accuracy of our measures.

In 2016, the country with the highest estimated proportion of modern slavery by population is North Korea. Though information on North Korea is difficult to verify, pervasive evidence exists that citizens are subjected to state-sanctioned forced labour, including through forced labour as political prisoners and as workers on overseas contracts.

Uzbekistan has the second highest estimated proportion of prevalence of modern slavery by population. While some steps have been taken to address forced labour in the cotton industry, the Uzbek Government continues to subject its citizens to forced labour in the cotton harvest each year.

In 2016, Cambodia has the third highest estimated prevalence of modern slavery. In Cambodia, extensive literature details the prevalence of commercial sexual exploitation and forced begging.
Our survey data highlight the existence of modern slavery in manufacturing, farming, construction and domestic work.

In 2016, we estimate 18.3 million people are in some form of modern slavery in India. This estimate reflects extensive surveying conducted in 2016 in 15 states. While impressive efforts are being taken by the Indian Government to address vulnerability, survey data suggest that domestic work, construction, farming, fishing, manual labour and the sex industry remain sectors of concern.

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. Several of these countries provide the low cost labour that produces consumer goods for markets in Western Europe, Japan, North America and Australia. Some of these countries are taking important steps towards stamping out abuses in key industries. For example, Indonesia’s work on rescuing and repatriating 2,000 trafficked fishermen is commendable.

While the lowest prevalence of modern slavery continues to be found in countries in Western Europe, North America, and Australia and New Zealand, estimates for these countries have increased following the application of a new estimation technique called Multiple Systems Estimation. This allows more precise measurement when random sample surveys are not appropriate. The United Kingdom was the first government to adopt this technique, which increased the UK estimate to 11,700 people in modern slavery. In 2016, a further test of this technique was completed in the Netherlands. This is reflected in the Netherlands estimate of 17,500 people in modern slavery.

Governments play a central role in responding to modern slavery. The Index examines steps being taken by governments to achieve the following critical outcomes:

  • Survivors are identified, supported to exit and remain out of modern slavery.

  • Criminal justice mechanisms address modern slavery.

  • Coordination and accountability mechanisms for the government are in place.

  • Attitudes, social systems and institutions that enable modern slavery are addressed.

  • Businesses and governments through their procurement systems stop sourcing goods and services that use modern slavery.

Research for this component of the Index involved a partnership between the Walk Free Foundation, the author of the Index, and DataMotivate, an organisation that provides training and employment for survivors of modern slavery in the Philippines.

The governments taking the most steps to respond to modern slavery are predominantly high GDP(PPP) countries: the Netherlands, the United States, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Australia,
Portugal, Croatia, Spain, Belgium and Norway.

The list is very different when correlated against GDP(PPP).

The governments taking the least action are: North Korea, Iran, Eritrea, Equatorial Guinea, Hong Kong, Central African Republic, Papua New Guinea, Guinea, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and South Sudan. The tragedy is that the populations of some of these countries concurrently face a high risk of enslavement.

When GDP(PPP) is accounted for, it is clear that despite their relative wealth, Hong Kong, Qatar, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, Japan and South Korea can and should be doing more to address modern slavery problems within their borders.

Many countries, including wealthy countries, continue to detain and deport victims, while many fail to ensure meaningful protections for the most vulnerable workers. With a few notable exceptions, there is also an almost complete failure to seek survivor feedback on experiences of the justice system and service provision.

There are increasing legal imperatives for large companies to identify and address labour abuses in their supply chains. The UK enacted the landmark Modern Slavery Act 2015, which requires large companies to report on steps they have taken to safeguard supply chains from modern slavery. Over 100 companies have submitted reports to date. In 2016, the United States amended a loophole in the Tariff Act of 1930 requiring Customs and Border Protection to seize and block imports made with forced labour. Previously, if there was 'consumptive demand' for a product and insufficient domestic supply to meet that demand, imports were accepted regardless of how they were produced. While these efforts originate from just two countries, the reach of these laws into international supply chains means their impact is felt well beyond national borders.

The regional studies highlight the interplay between environmental destruction, natural disasters and human trafficking; the impact of conflict on forced marriage, commercial sexual exploitation and child soldiers; and the effect of limited education and employment opportunities in situations of forced and bonded labour. In 2016, unprecedented global displacement and migration increased vulnerability to all forms of modern slavery.

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, 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.

Sub-Saharan Africa 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. New survey data from South Africa confirms the existence of forced labour in the commercial sex industry, construction, manufacturing and factory work, and drug trafficking.

As violent conflict escalates in the Middle East and North Africa, the profile of victims vulnerable to modern slavery has shifted. While migrant workers from Asia remain vulnerable, increasingly Middle Easterners themselves face exploitation and slavery in 2016.

In the Americas, new survey data in Guatemala, Mexico, Chile, Dominican Republic and Bolivia suggest that forced labour is particularly prevalent in manual labour sectors such as construction, manufacturing and factory work, and domestic work.

The 12 country studies included in the Index are a snapshot of the diversity and similarity of modern slavery crimes across the globe, such as the short and long term impact of conflict on slavery (Iraq and Cambodia), the role of the private sector (Thailand and Qatar), and the responsibility of highly developed countries (the UK). New data on under researched countries (such as South Africa and Mexico) are also highlighted. The studies present a range of government responses and confirm that while much work has been done, there is still more to do. Limited implementation and enforcement of laws, and the importance of countering corruption are recurring themes.

The studies confirm that poverty and lack of livelihood opportunities play a major role in increasing vulnerability to modern slavery. They also point to deeper social and structural inequalities that enable exploitation to persist – xenophobia, patriarchy, class, caste, and discriminatory gender norms. Discrimination against minorities traps migrant workers in inhumane working conditions in every continent. The control of women’s sexuality in many societies leads to forced marriage and commercial sexual exploitation. Hierarchical cultures continue to abuse the ‘lowest’ among them, perpetuating intergenerational exploitation.

Read the full report here