Thirty million people are enslaved around the world by either being trafficked into brothels, forced into manual labour, victims of debt bondage or born into servitude, with Nigeria ranking third among countries with the largest number of modern slaves, a global index on modern slavery showed yesterday.
According to index from a survey by Walk Free, an Australian-based rights group, 10 countries account for three quarters of the world’s slaves. Almost half are in India, where slavery ranges from bonded labour in quarries and kilns to commercial sex exploitation, although the scourge exists in all 162 countries surveyed. It says after India, China has the most with 2.9 million, followed by Pakistan with 2.1 million, Nigeria with 701,000, Ethiopia 651,000, Russia 516,000, Thailand 473,000, DR Congo 462,000, Myanmar 384,000 and Bangladesh 343,000.
Modern slavery refers to kinds of slavery that exist in modern times with estimates of up to $35 billion generated annually. The United Nations estimates that about 30 million people are currently caught in the slave trade industry with Mauritania, an African country, being the last country on the planet, according to Wikipedia, to officially abolish slavery in 2007. But illegal slavery still thrives in the modern world in various forms, and slaves can be an attractive investment because the slave-owner only needs to pay for sustenance and enforcement, which is sometimes lower than the wage-cost of free labourers, as free workers earn more than sustenance. Thus, in these cases, slaves have positive price. But if sustenance cost and enforcement becomes higher than wage rate, it becomes unprofitable to own slaves, and slave owners might decide to set them free. Slaves are thus a more attractive investment in high-wage environments, and environments where enforcement is cheap, and less attractive in environments where the wage-rate is low and enforcement is expensive, says Wikipedia.
Yesterday’s estimate of 29.8 million slaves worldwide from Walk Free is higher than other attempts but largely corresponds with UN estimates to quantify modern slavery. The International Labour Organisation estimates that almost 21 million people are victims of forced labour.
“Today some people are still being born into hereditary slavery, a staggering but harsh reality, particularly in parts of West Africa and South Asia,” the report said.
“Other victims are captured or kidnapped before being sold or kept for exploitation, whether through ‘marriage’, unpaid labour on fishing boats, or as domestic workers. Others are tricked and lured into situations they cannot escape, with false promises of a good job or an education.”
The Global Slavery Index 2013 defines slavery as the possession or control of people to deny freedom and exploit them for profit or sex, usually through violence, coercion or deception. The definition includes indentured servitude, forced marriage and the abduction of children to serve in wars. The index also ranks nations by prevalence of slavery per head of population. By this measure, Mauritania is worst, with almost 4 percent of its 3.8 million people enslaved. Estimates by other organisations put the level at up to 20 percent.
Chattel slavery is common in Mauritania, meaning that slave status is passed down through generations. “Owners” buy, sell, rent out or give away their slaves as gifts. After Mauritania, slavery is most prevalent by population in Haiti, where a system of child labour known as “restavek” encourages poor families to send their children to wealthier acquaintances, where many end up exploited and abused.
Pakistan, India, Nepal, Moldova, Benin, Ivory Coast, Gambia and Gabon have the next highest prevalence rates. At the other end of the scale, Iceland has the lowest estimated prevalence with fewer than 100 slaves. Next best are Ireland, Britain, New Zealand, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Luxembourg, Finland and Denmark, although researchers said slave numbers in such wealthy countries were higher than previously thought.