The Walk Free Foundation, an Australian-based organization, released its first Global Slavery Index Report Wednesday estimating 29.8 million people live in various forms of modern slavery worldwide.
Ten countries account for 76 percent of the total number of slaves. India has the most slaves in total – some 14 million people – nearly half of the world’s slavery population. China and Pakistan have the second and third largest enslaved populations. Mauritania has the highest number of slaves per capita. Slaves in Mauritania are treated as property inherited by previous generations, “masters who exercise total ownership over them and their descendants,” according to the report [PDF].
Although the greatest numbers of slaves are found in Asia and Africa, modern slavery – defined as forced labor, human trafficking, and treatment of individuals as property to be bought, sold, or destroyed – exists on every continent. The United States, for example, has an estimated 57,000-63,000 enslaved people.
“It would be comforting to think that slavery is a relic of history, but it remains a scar on humanity on every continent,” said Nick Grono, CEO of the Walk Free Foundation. “This is the first slavery index but it can already shape national and global efforts to root out modern slavery across the world.”
The Walk Free Foundation intends to update the Index every year. The report also looks at government response to slavery. The analysis includes an examination of the criminal justice response, victim services and support, government accountability, budget allocation, and the strength of targeted responses in vulnerable populations, like migrant workers or workers in the informal economy.