Understanding the numbers of modern slavery in the world allows us to better serve the victims, create better policies and follow up on the programs implemented.
In 2016, there were roughly 40.3 million victims of modern slavery around the world. This is equal to 5.4 victims every 1,000 people, of which 1 in 4 are children.
Although the figures are alarming, this phenomenon of human rights violation remains largely unknown. Based on the classification and information of The Global Slavery Index 2018 and the International Labour Organization (ILO), below we present some of the statistics of modern slavery across the 5 regions of the world: Africa, Europe and Central Asia, East Asia and the Pacific, America, and the Arabian Peninsula.
In addition, for each region, the vulnerability classification estimated by the Global Slavery Index Vulnerability Model will be considered. In which systematic, individual and environmental risk factors are measured for 167 countries in order to explain the prevalence of modern slavery.
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Statistics of Modern Slavery in Europe and Central Asia
In total, in Europe and Central Asia there are around 3.6 million victims of modern slavery, and the prevalence is 3.9 per 1,000 people. Nevertheless, this is the region with the lowest proportion of forced marriage victims in the world with a rate of 0.4 every 1.000.
In Europe and Central Asia, over a third of people in forced labour are in debt bondage, marking the lowest rates in the world. This phenomenon affects mostly men, in contrast to other regions such as Africa and the Arabian Peninsula were women are the most affected.
The Europe and Central Asia region is second, behind East Asia and the Pacific, in the proportion of cases of slavery for sexual exploitation and forced labour. However, it is necessary to point out the lack of information within the countries of Central Asia, such as Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. In them, either due to lack of consent from the authorities or the impossibility of accessing migrant workers, the interviews on which the index is modeled were not fully carried out.
In Europe and central Asia there is an average vulnerability rate of 28.2 (the lowest in the world) and accounts for 9% of global slavery victims. Overall, the region performed positively on the different risk factors. Although the factor of marginalization and disenfranchisement groups had the highest score after governance problems. This could mean an increase in the marginalization of migrants.
It is worth noting this region also had the best scores in state responses to modern slavery and contains 9 of the top 10 countries that have taken the most actions to stop this phenomenon. Georgia and Moldova also stand out as having made great strides in relation to their GDP.
Statistics of Modern Slavery in America
Victims in America constitute 5% of the total number of victims of modern slavery in the world. In total, there are estimated to be around 1,950,000 victims. The region has a prevalence of 1.9 per 1,000 people. As such, America is the region with the fewest victims per capita.
It is also the region with the second lowest prevalence of forced marriage, with a prevalence of 1.7 per 1,000 people. And the second best, also after Europe and Central Asia, in States responses to this human rights crisis.
Haiti and Venezuela have the highest proportion of victims per 1.000 people, with 5.6. However, Mexico, Brazil and the United States account for 60% of the regional total.
Despite its low share of the world’s total number of victims of modern slavery, America has a high vulnerability index, with an average of 41.4. In addition, the greatest risk factor, unlike other regions, is inequality, with 49.9 points out of 100.
Despite the discordance of vulnerability and the total number of victims, Haiti and Venezuela do meet the norm by having the highest average vulnerability index and the highest rate of victims in the region.
After Europe and Central Asia, the Americas is the region with the best implementation of policy to prevent this situation. Represented by Brazil and the United States, America leads the connection between public policies to combat modern slavery and the private sector.
Statistics of Modern Slavery in Pacific-Asia
This region accounts for 62% of the world’s population living under modern slavery situations. The East Asia and Pacific region has a prevalence of 6.1 per 1,000 people, even though it has a total population of 2.352 billion (according to World Bank data). It is important to put this information in perspective, as even with 56% of the world’s population (China alone accounts for 18% of the world’s population) this region still has the second highest prevalence of modern slavery of all regions.
Furthermore, this region is home to 5 of the 10 states with the highest prevalence of modern slavery in the world: North Korea with 104.6 victims per 1,000 inhabitants, Afghanistan with 22.2, Pakistan and Cambodia with 16.8 and Iran with 16.6. In total, the region has an estimated 24,999,000 victims of modern slavery.
In fact, this is the world’s leading region in the prevalence of forced labour, 4 per 1,000 people, and second one after Africa in the number of forced marriages. In addition, the East Asia and Pacific region has the highest proportion of victims in all types of forced labour: 7 out of 10 of the world’s victims of forced sex work are in this region, as are 68% of the victims of forced labour by the State. China, India and Pakistan account for 60% of all victims in the region.
As most regions, the greatest vulnerability factor in the East Asia and Pacific region is governance issues. In total, the region has a score of 46.1 out of 100. It is necessary to highlight the case of Afghanistan, which has a total vulnerability of 93.9 to situations of modern slavery, due to serious governance problems and conflict effects.
Statistics of Modern Slavery in Africa
With 16% of the world’s population, Africa has an estimated 7.6 victims per 1,000 people and the highest prevalence of modern slavery in the world. In total, there are an estimated 9.2 million victims of slavery in Africa. And it is the region with the second highest number of victims in absolute numbers.
In addition, 5 of the 10 countries with the highest prevalence of modern slavery in the world are located in this region. These are: Eritrea, with 93 victims per 1000 people, Burundi with 40, the Central African Republic with 22.3, Mauritania with 21.4 and South Sudan with 20.5.
This region has the highest proportion of forced marriage cases in the world. It is estimated that this represents 63% of the total number of victims in Africa and constitutes about 5,796,000 victims (with 4.8 victims per 1000 population). The total numbers are followed by forced labour and forced sex work (over which it has 8% of the world’s total share).
The African region accounts for 8 of the 10 States in the world that implement the least actions to combat modern slavery. Excluding South Sudan, the 4 other African countries with the highest prevalence of modern slavery in the world and Equatorial Guinea, Congo, Libya and Sudan.
The Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria, together, have the highest number of victims in the region in absolute numbers, accounting for 26.3% of the estimate. However, in these two countries, as in the other African nations, the lack of accurate data is a constant. Due to conflict, it is impossible to conduct the surveys on which the estimates are based in most of northern Nigeria, Sudan and Libya.
On a scale of 0 to 100, the African region has 62 points of vulnerability to modern slavery. The most influential factors of vulnerability are governance issues and the marginalization and disenfranchisement of different groups.
This produces, for example, waves of migration and human trafficking from the North Africa (and Libya primarily) to Europe via the central Mediterranean route. In this situation, human rights violations and exploitation and slavery occur on a regular basis.
Statistics of Modern Slavery in the Arabian Peninsula
Although this region is referred to as the “Arab States” in The Global Slavery Index report, geographically it is called the Arabian Peninsula.
This region has a prevalence of modern slavery of 3.3 persons per 1,000, the second lowest in the world after America. It consists of only 11 countries and has an estimated total of 520,000 people in modern slavery. This is 1% of the proportion of victims in the entire globe.
However, estimates of modern slavery in the Arabian Peninsula are affected by substantial gaps in available information. The ILO highlights the difficulty of accessing information in this region and the large data gaps, especially on forced marriage. Fewer surveys on the phenomena have been carried out at the national level than in other regions of the world (along with Central Asia) and it is therefore necessary to interpret the figures carefully.
The largest form of modern slavery on the Peninsula is forced labour, where 2.2 out of every 1,000 people are victims. And about half of them are in debt bondage, which mostly affects women.
Syria, Iraq and Yemen together account for 76% of victims in the region, or 395,200 people. However, due to the conflict in these 3 countries, it is possible that the information estimated by The Global Slavery Index is lower than the real data.
With a score of 57 on the vulnerability scale, the Arabian Peninsula region is the second most vulnerable to modern slavery after Africa. The most relevant risk factors are inequality and the effects of conflict on the population. Even so, Yemen, Syria and Iraq have much higher levels of vulnerability than the overall average of the region. Syria has an average vulnerability of 92.3 and highlights the high-risk factor of the effects of conflict on the civilian population. Yemen averages 86.4 and Iraq 85.7.
As in the African case, in the Arabian Peninsula, one of the major risk factors for forced labour is migration. However, in this case, the vulnerability lies with the migrant population within the states of this region, not with the outgoing population. The region is home to about 17.6 million migrant workers, which represents 1 out of every 3 workers in the Peninsula.
In Qatar, for example, it is estimated that there are around 4,000 people in modern slavery, although reports have risen exponentially in recent years. Today there are estimated to be around 1.7 million foreign workers in Qatar. This figure has skyrocketed due to the construction of infrastructure for the 2022 World Cup. Daily, about 3,200 people work on the construction of the Khalifa Stadium, of which more than 234 are abused and exploited by their bosses to the point of slavery. Withholding of passports, non-payment, lies about wages and work under threat are some of the allegations reported by Amnesty International.
Additional Data about modern slavery:
- Between India, China, Pakistan, North Korea, Nigeria, Iran, Indonesia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Russia, and the Philippines, they account for 60% of the world’s victims of modern slavery.
- Afghanistan, South Sudan, Pakistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo are among the countries most vulnerable to slavery situations.
- More than 90% of forced marriages take place in two regions: Africa and East Asia and the Pacific.
- Forced labour for debt bondage is the most common in East Asia and the Pacific, Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. In the latter region, up to 89% of the victims are women.
By: Juan Diego Valenzuela
International Labour Organization (ILO) & Walk Free 2017, Methodology of the global estimates of modern slavery: Forced labour and forced marriage, ILO, p. 78. Available from: https://downloads.globalslaveryindex.org/ephemeral/Methodology-1629129400.pdf
Amnesty International 2016, Qatar World Cup of Shame, Amnesty international. Available from: https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/campaigns/2016/03/qatar-world-cup-of-shame/
World Bank 2020, Población Total – East Asia & Pacific, World Bank Data. Available from: https://datos.bancomundial.org/indicador/SP.POP.TOTL?locations=Z4