LONDON, United Kingdom – The first-ever Global Slavery Index was released on October 17 to British NGO the Chatham House, demonstrating the growing problem of modern slavery in developing countries. The global survey demonstrates that approximately 29 million children and adults all around the world work in positions of servitude. According to the index, about 10 countries contain around 70 percent of the world’s slaves. India tops the charts with 14 million forced laborers, followed by China and Pakistan. The other countries included in the top 10 were Nigeria, Ethiopia, Russia, Thailand, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burma, as well as Bangladesh.
The index is a pioneer in the field of development indexes, as it is the first attempt to measure the amount of modern-day slavery experienced on a country-by-country scale. An Australian organization known as the Walk Free Foundation, which works to end modern slavery, published the Global Slavery Index. The index catalogues data from 162 countries and ranks them, as well as pinpoints risk factors for enslavement and government action towards it.
For many in the developing world, modern slavery unfortunately goes hand in hand with survival – especially for the Caribbean island of Haiti, in which 250,000 to 300,000 children are taken away from their poor families and forced to leave with rich households, to cook and clean for them. The children, known as the “restaveks,” have no choice but to engage in forced labor, since their parents cannot take care of them.
Global corporations have been criticized for their use of forced labor in the production and manufacturing of their goods. For instance, Nintendo has been accused of looking the other way when discussing the possibility of the use of slaves in their supply chain. Additionally, because of consumer pressure, retailers such as H&M and luxury designer brand Michael Kors have ceased working with suppliers that use cotton from Uzbekistan, where the government forces children and adults to work in the cotton fields.
In an article by the Guardian, CEO of the Walk Free Foundation Nick Grono added a personal element when discussing slave labor and was quoted saying, “…modern slavery is a hidden crime. It’s forced labour, bonded labour. And everyone is tainted by it. The clothes we wear might be made from cotton picked by forced labour in Uzbekistan. The electronic games we play with might contain minerals extracted by forced labour in the Congo.”
The new index is a remarkable feat in trying to tackle the problem being the first index focusing on modern slavery. However, issues still remain as anti-slavery campaigners become frustrated with the continuous lack of data regarding modern slavery. These campaigners argue that without more data, it will be very difficult to end the use of forced labour around the world. Researchers who worked on the Global Slavery Index acknowledge that the obtainment of data on the issue is controversial in itself due to its nature as a “hidden crime,” which will make it tricky to convince researchers that the index is useful. However, they do hope that governments will be open enough to collaborate with the Walk Free Foundation and conduct studies to obtain more data.
– Elisha-Kim Desmangles