Although modern slavery is not always easy to recognize, it continues to exist in nearly every country. In total, there are 167 countries that still have slavery and around 46 million slaves today, according to the 2016 Global Slavery Index.
The U.S. Department of State defines modern slavery as “the act of recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing, or obtaining a person for compelled labor or commercial sex acts through the use of force, fraud, or coercion.”
India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Uzbekistan and North Korea are at the top of the list for countries that still have slavery. Here are some facts about what slavery is like in each of these countries.
The Highest Numbers: 6 Countries That Still Have Slavery
- India (18.4 Million) India has the highest number of slaves in the world. Like many other countries, modern slavery in India can take the shape of domestic service, forced begging, commercial sexual exploitation, forced marriage and forced recruitment for armed services. Because of India’s growing economy, many modern slaves work in factories that export goods to other countries. Consequently, men, women and children work long hours without proper compensation or even basic rights.
- China (3.4 Million) The Chinese government relies on exports of goods and raw materials even more than India. According to a CNN report, people in China are forced into labor across many different industries. The migration of poor families from rural to urban areas in search of jobs often leads to opportunities for traffickers. Although families travel together, many eventually split up. Individuals sell young boys to other families who lack sons, and girls often face sex slavery or forced marriage.
- Pakistan (2.1 Million) Modern slavery in Pakistan, like India, centers on debt bondage, or bonded labor. Brick-making employs around 10 million people in Pakistan. Children and families often work 10 hours each day in brick kilns and are denied basic rights or laws to protect them. Without this protection, workers face torture and sexual exploitation.
- Bangladesh (1.5 Million) Contemporary slavery in Bangladesh is accounted for through 80 percent forced labor and 20 percent forced marriage, according to the Global Slavery Index. Poverty, natural disasters and government corruption have made Bangladesh the 11th most vulnerable country to slavery within Asia.
- Uzbekistan (1.2 Million) The main cash crop of Uzbekistan is cotton. Each fall, when cotton crops are booming, the government forces millions of people out of their jobs to work in the cotton fields. International organizations monitor the process, however, the government still does not compensate these people. They also do not enforce proper safety precautions.
- North Korea (1.1 Million) The government of North Korea has done little to criminalize modern slavery. People of all ages are subject to forced labor while their government says they are “living in a socialist paradise.” One in twenty North Koreans is enslaved. Although the country does not have the highest total number of slaves, it does have the highest concentration of forced labor.
While many countries have taken steps toward banning and criminalizing slavery, there is still much to do. Countries that still have slavery are facing many problems that we all must address. “Improving the rights of 45.8 million human beings is both wise and urgent for all leaders of countries and organizations,” said Andrew Forrest, Founder and Chairman of the Walk Free Foundation. “Eradicating slavery makes sense; morally, politically, logically and economically.”
– Madeline Boeding