Slavery is universally abhorred, at least in the Western world, and yet a report on the problem finds that over 40 million people are in bondage. In addition, over 150 million children are child laborers. The report was compiled by the International Labour Organization with Walk Free Foundation and the International Organization for Migration. The executive summary for the report is available at Alliance 8.7.
Slavery is defined as one of: forced labor exploitation, state-imposed forced labor, forced sexual exploitation, or forced marriage.
- Women account for the majority of slaves at 71%.
- The types of slavery are about evenly split, with forced marriage/sexual exploitation accounting for about half and forced labor/labor exploitation accounting for the other half.
- A quarter of the slaves are children.
- North Korea, Uzbekistan, Cambodia, India, and Qatar have the highest proportion of their populations in slavery. It ranges from over 4% in North Korea to 1.3% in Qatar. North Korea, in particular, operates slave labor camps and forces women into prostitution, sending them into China and surrounding countries.
- India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Uzbekistan have the largest number of people in slavery, by absolute numbers. In fact, 58% of the world’s enslaved population lives in these countries. Some are forced to work to provide products which Western countries crave.
- By region, Africa accounts for the highest proportion of slaves, at 7.6 slaves per 1000 people, followed by Asia/Pacific at 6.7, Europe/Central Asia at 3.9, Arab countries at 3.3, and the Americas at 1.9.
The stories of sexual exploitation and forced marriages are horrific, with many victims being young girls under the age of 15. The Global Slavery Index website tells the tale of a 13 year-old girl in Bangladesh who was forced into prostitution, along with her two sisters, in order to raise money for their family. Sadly, her story is repeated numerous times throughout the world.
Forced laborers also face a hard life. What do forced laborers do? Much of their work is done in order to feed the Western world’s appetites. For example, the shrimp industry in Thailand utilizes forced laborers in order to harvest and prepare much of the world’s shrimp supplies. Escaped laborers tell of being kept at sea for years, forced to work 2o hour days, people being beaten and killed, and being given methamphetamines to keep them awake and working longer.
In the United States, there are an estimated 57,000 slaves. By comparison, approximately the same number of people die in the U.S. from the flu each year, 44,000 die from suicide, and 15,000 are murdered. Thus, if slavery were considered similarly as a “cause of death,” it would perhaps be taken more seriously in this country. As it is, it is the “hidden scourge,” present but unnoticed.