North Korea, Eritrea and Mauritania have the highest prevalence of modern slavery in the world, according to the Global Slavery Index 2023, which notes a “worsening” of the situation globally since his last survey five years earlier.
The report released on Wednesday said around 50 million people were “living in situations of modern slavery” in 2021, an increase of 10 million from 2016, when the problem was last measured.
This figure includes some 28 million people in forced labor and 22 million living in forced marriage.
The situation is worsening “against a backdrop of growing and more complex armed conflicts, widespread environmental degradation” and the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, among other factors, according to the survey.
Compiled by the human rights charity Walk Free, the report defines modern slavery as encompassing “forced labour, forced or bonded marriage, debt bondage, forced commercial sexual exploitation, human trafficking human beings, slavery-like practices, as well as the sale and exploitation of children”.
The fundamental tenet of slavery involves “the systematic suppression of a person’s freedom” – from the right to accept or refuse work to the freedom to determine if, when and whom to marry.
According to this benchmark, reclusive and authoritarian North Korea has the highest prevalence of modern slavery (104.6 per 1,000 people), according to the report.
It is followed by Eritrea (90.3) and Mauritania (32), which in 1981 became the last country in the world to outlaw hereditary slavery.
The 10 countries with the highest prevalence of modern slavery share certain common characteristics, including “limited protections for civil liberties and human rights.”
Many countries are in “unstable” regions experiencing conflict or political instability, or host a large population of “vulnerable people” such as refugees or migrant workers.
Also in the global top 10 are Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, where the labor rights of migrant workers are limited by the “kafala” sponsorship system.
The other countries in the top 10 are Turkey, “which hosts millions of refugees from Syria”, Tajikistan, Russia and Afghanistan.
Although forced labor is more common in low-income countries, it is “deeply” linked to demand from high-income countries, the report says, noting that two-thirds of all forced labor cases are linked to chains global supplies.
The report says G20 countries – made up of the European Union and the world’s 19 largest economies – currently import $468 billion worth of goods that are at risk of being produced by forced labor, compared to $354 billion in the report. previous.
Electronics remains the most important product at risk, followed by clothing, palm oil and solar panels, indicating a strong demand for renewable energy products.
“Modern slavery permeates every aspect of our society. It is woven through our clothes, lights up our electronics and seasons our food,” said Grace Forrest, founding director of the group.
“At its core, modern slavery is a manifestation of extreme inequality. It is a mirror held up to power, reflecting who in a given society has it and who does not,” she added.