LONDON: An estimated 30 million people worldwide are living in modern-day slavery, according to the inaugural Global Slavery Index published yesterday.
The index, compiled by the Walk Free Foundation (WFF), said that while India by far had the largest number of enslaved people, the problem was most prevalent in the west African nation of Mauritania, where four percent of the population was deemed to be held in slavery.
The WFF hopes the index will help governments to monitor and tackle what it calls a “hidden crime”. “A lot of governments won’t like hearing what we have to say,” Chief Executive Nick Grono said.
Established in May last year, the WFF is a 20-strong team based in Perth, founded by philanthropists Andrew Forrest — the chairman of Fortescue Metals Group — and his wife Nicola. It has the backing of former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, Britain’s ex-prime minister Tony Blair, current Australian PM Tony Abbott and philanthropists Bill Gates, Richard Branson and Mo Ibrahim.
The foundation’s definition of modern slavery includes slavery itself, plus slavery-like practices — such as debt bondage, forced marriage and the sale or exploitation of children — human trafficking and forced labour.
The countries with the highest prevalence of modern slavery were Mauritania, Haiti, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Moldova, Benin, Ivory Coast, Gambia and Gabon. Moldova was the only European nation in the top 10.
The index describes Mauritania as a nation with “deeply entrenched hereditary slavery”, while “people in slavery may be bought and sold, rented out and given away as gifts”. Russia came 49th, China 84th, United States 134th, France 139th and Britain joint bottom on 160.
In terms of total numbers, the countries with the most people in modern slavery were estimated to be India (13.95 million), followed by China (2.95 million) and Pakistan (2.1 million). The report estimated that 72 percent of people in modern slavery live in Asia.
In India, “by far the largest proportion of this problem is the exploitation of Indian citizens within India itself, particularly through debt bondage and bonded labour”, the report said.
Among the top 10, the WFF said Moldova and Ivory Coast were working hard to address the issue, but efforts in the top three — Mauritania, Haiti and Pakistan — are “token at best and non-existent at worst”, the report said. AFP