Human Rights

The horrors of modern slavery, in numbers

An artisanal miner works at Tilwizembe, a former industrial copper-cobalt mine, outside of Kolwezi, the capital city of Lualaba Province in the south of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, June 11, 2016. Picture taken June 11, 2016. REUTERS/Kenny Katombe - RTSIIMR

Forced labour generates $150bn a year – three times Apple's revenues Image: REUTERS/Kenny Katombe - RTSIIMR

Rosamond Hutt
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Human Rights

Human Rights is a key topic at the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting 2017. Watch the session on Issue Briefing: Human Rights in a Multipolar World here.

Modern slavery is a hidden crime, yet it’s happening right under our noses, in every part of world. In fields, factories, building sites, brothels and homes.

It takes on many different forms: human trafficking, forced and bonded labour, sexual exploitation, domestic servitude, forced marriage, organ removal, and often exists in more than one of these guises.

45.8 million

There are currently an estimated 45.8 million people enslaved worldwide. This is roughly equivalent to the population of Spain.

Global Slavery Index 2013
Image: Global Slavery Index

The Global Slavery Index 2016 assessed the extent of the problem and adequacy of governments’ responses in 167 countries. North Korea, where an estimated 4.37% of the population is enslaved, has the highest incidence of modern slavery, followed by Uzbekistan at 3.97% and Cambodia at 1.65%.

In terms of absolute numbers, India has more people in slavery than any other country – an estimated 18.3 million – but has taken significant steps to tackle the problem, according to the Walk Free Foundation, which produced the index.

$150 billion

Slavery is a booming criminal industry. Forced labour generates $150 billion a year in illegal profits, figures from the International Labour Organization (ILO) show. That’s more than the GDP of most African countries and three times Apple’s revenues.

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21 million

The ILO estimates that there are 21 million victims of forced labour globally – 19 million of whom are exploited by criminals working for themselves or gangs, and over 2 million by the state or rebel groups.

More than one fifth of enslaved people working for individuals or gangs are sexually exploited, and victims of sex trafficking include an estimated 1.8 million children.

Nearly one in three

Almost one third of trafficked people who are found are children, according to a 2014 UNODC report on human trafficking.

In Africa and the Middle East children make up the majority of victims. In Europe and Central Asia, on the other hand, they are outnumbered by adults, mainly women.

 Trafficked victims worldwide
Image: UNODC

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Kailash Satyarthi founded the charity Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save the Childhood Movement), which has rescued more than 80,000 enslaved children in South Asia.

He also leads the Global March Against Child Labour, a global movement to bring child labour and child slavery to the attention of world leaders.

 Child Labour Index 2014
Image: Maplecroft
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