Global Slavery Index lists 10 countries with high prevalence

.Says y 50 million people worldwide live in modern slavery

. G20 accounts for over half of all people living in modern slavery

The Global Slavery Index (GSI), has revealed the number of people living in modern slavery has grown since 2018 against a backdrop of increasing and more complex conflicts, widespread environmental degradation, climate-induced migration, a global rollback of women’s rights, and the economic and social impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The latest Index released today, by human rights group, Walk Free, named 10 countries with the highest prevalence of modern slavery, including North Korea, Eritrea, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Türkiye, Tajikistan, United Arab Emirates, Russia, Afghanistan, and Kuwait.

The report also said in 2021, seven million people in Africa were living under modern slavery, with Eritrea, Mauritania, and South Sudan leading the continent in prevalence of modern slavery.

The report finds Africa has the highest vulnerability of all regions. Though modern slavery manifests itself differently across the continent, regional vulnerability is largely driven by ethnic, caste, and/or gender-based discrimination.

Conflict and climate-driven displacement exacerbates modern slavery, as millions of internally displaced people face greater risk of exploitation.

Governments have improved identification measures and legal frameworks to address modern slavery. Yet limited action has been taken to mitigate systemic vulnerabilities across the region and no African country has criminalised all forms of modern slavery.

Commenting on the findings of the GSI, Founding Director of Walk Free, Grace Forrest, said: “Modern slavery permeates every aspect of our society. It is woven through our clothes, lights up our electronics, and seasons our food. At its core, modern slavery is a manifestation of extreme inequality.

“It is a mirror held to power, reflecting who in any given society has it and who does not. Nowhere is this paradox more present than in our global economy through transnational supply chains,” said.

Nations fuelling forced labour

The report highlights the role played by G20 nations in fuelling forced labour within global supply chains, including state-imposed forced labour.

The G20 accounts for over half of all people living in modern slavery and imports $468 billion of at-risk products annually.

The United States was by far the biggest importer of at-risk products ($169.6 billion). Electronics remained the highest value at-risk product ($243.6 billion), followed by garments ($147.9 billion), palm oil ($19.7 billion), solar panels ($14.8 billion), and textiles ($12.7 billion).

The report revealed six G20 nations are among the countries with the largest number of people in modern slavery, India (11 million), China (5.8 million), Russia (1.9 million), Indonesia (1.8 million), Türkiye (1.3 million), and the United States (1.1 million).

The report also shows how climate change has exacerbated modern slavery, forcing millions of people to migrate in unplanned ways putting them at higher risk of exploitation.

Increasingly intense weather events are displacing communities and spurring risks of modern slavery; while sectors at high risk of forced labour, such as mining, logging, and textile/garment manufacturing, contribute to climate degradation. There is increasing evidence that renewable industries, vital for transitioning to clean energy, are reliant on forced labour.

Since 2018 the number of people living in modern slavery has increased to 50 million, but government action has stagnated, particularly among those with traditionally stronger responses. The global community is even further from achieving the goals they agreed to make a priority; no government is on track to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goal 8.7 of ending modern slavery, forced labour, and human trafficking by 2030.

In recent years, Australia, Canada, Germany, and Norway have introduced legislation to hold business and government accountable for exploitation that occurs in global supply chains. While a step in the right direction, G20 countries should be using their leverage to move from intention to real action.

Forrest added: “With 50 million people living in modern slavery today, this Global Slavery Index demands immediate action. Walk Free is calling on governments around the world to step up their efforts to end modern slavery on their shores and in their supply chains. We know the scale of the issue and have the knowledge and the policies needed to act. What we need now is political will.”

Call to action

The report calls on governments around the world to immediately take the following five key actions:

  • Implement stronger measures to combat forced labour in public and private supply chains by introducing legislation to stop governments and businesses from sourcing goods or services linked to modern slavery.
  • Embed anti-slavery measures in humanitarian and crisis responses and ensure that human rights are embedded in efforts to build a green economy.
  • Prioritise human rights when engaging with repressive regimes, by conducting due diligence to ensure that any trade, business, or investment is not contributing to or benefitting from state-imposed forced labour, including where it occurs in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China.
  • Focus on prevention and protection for vulnerable populations by providing primary and secondary education for all children, including girls.
  • Ensure effective civil and criminal protections in legislation to tackle forced and child marriage, including raising the age of marriage to 18 for girls and boys, with no exceptions.
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