Walk Free Foundation Estimates 35.8 Million People in Modern Slavery
The Walk Free Foundation has released the 2014 edition of the Global Slavery Index, estimating the number of people in modern slavery in 167 countries. It estimates that 35.8 million people are living in some form of slavery today. This is higher than the previous year’s estimate, which found 29.8 million people in slavery. Although this could mean a real increase in modern slavery, the report cites an improved methodology that could account for the number being higher. In 2014, Uzbekistan and The Democratic Republic of Congo have both ranked in the top 10 countries with the highest prevalence of modern slavery.
Uzbekistan also ranks in the top 10 countries whose governments are doing the least to end slavery, and is the only country besides Kyrgyzstan that does not have a specialized law enforcement unit or team that is tasked with investigating modern slavery crimes. The Uzbek government is notorious as the organizing power behind the system of modern slavery that forces at least 1.2 million citizens to pick cotton for two months every harvest season.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, decades of instability has made citizens vulnerable to slavery, particularly in agriculture and mining of gold, tantalum, tin, and tungsten. The connection between the revenue generated from minerals and the purchase of weapons that help to both perpetuate instability and exploit others has been well documented. Children are highly vulnerable to recruitment to armed groups and sexual exploitation, and 320,000 children are estimated to be working in artisanal mines.
Consumers have the ability to influence these systems of modern slavery, and the Walk Free Foundation recommends consumers check that companies have policies against forced labor or conflict materials before purchasing their products. It is also recommended that companies integrate policies and contracts to suppliers and sub-suppliers to ensure forced labor cotton and conflict minerals are not entering the supply chain at any point. Modern slavery continues to be prominent in the world and in order to diminish it, consumers, companies, and investors must take action.