New research from the group Walk Free and FTS Co-founder Kevin Bales estimates there are more people in slavery today than previously thought. The 2014 edition of the Walk Free Global Slavery Index reports that 35.8 million people are enslaved, a 23 percent increase from the team’s 2013 assessment. The team attributes the sharp increase to improved research methodology, not an increase in the number of slaves.
The report, which provides a country-by-country estimate of slavery in 167 nations, was released Monday. “It is a tool for non-government organizations, businesses and public officials to understand the size of the problem, existing responses and contributing factors, so they can build sound policies that will end modern slavery,” says Walk Free.
“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,” says Walk Free Chairman and Founder Andrew Forrest. “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.”
The Global Slavery Index adds to the growing body of research on global slavery prevalence. Another major study conducted by the U.N. International Labor Organization in 2012 estimated that 21 million people are in slavery. The two studies employed different research methods, but taken together they confirm that slavery is a major human rights challenge affecting tens of millions worldwide.
One feature of the Global Slavery Index is a ranking of countries from worst to best based on the percentage of their population in slavery. Mauritania is the world’s worst spot for slavery, according to the report. The world’s lowest incidence of slavery occurs in Iceland.
Five of the six countries where Free the Slaves operates front-line anti-slavery projects are listed by the index as some of the world’s worst hot spots: Haiti is number two on the global prevalence list, India is fifth, the Congo is seventh, Nepal is number 20, Ghana is 21 and Brazil is number 143. Taken together, these six FTS countries have an estimated 15.9 million people in slavery, according to the report.