Global Slavery Index


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understanding the scale of modern slavery

Modern slavery is hidden in plain sight and is deeply intertwined with life in every corner of the world.

Each day, people are tricked, coerced, or forced into exploitative situations that they cannot refuse or leave. Each day, we buy the products or use the services they have been forced to make or offer without realising the hidden human cost.

An estimated 50 million people were living in modern slavery on any given day in 2021, an increase of 10 million people since 2016.

Walk Free’s flagship report, the Global Slavery Index (GSI) provides national estimates of modern slavery for 160 countries. Our estimates draw on thousands of interviews with survivors collected through nationally representative household surveys across 75 countries and our assessment of national-level vulnerability.

With the exception of contributions from external authors, the Global Slavery Index is produced by Walk Free. We are solely responsible for the contents of this report.


people in modern slavery

Photo credit: Marcos Moreno / AFP via Getty Images


people in Pakistan


people in India


people in China


people in North Korea

Strait of Gibraltar, Atlantic Ocean, September 2018. A boat carrying migrants is stranded at sea. Many migrants are driven to leave their homes due to conflict, or displacement caused by climate change.

Most prevalent

The countries estimated to have the highest prevalence of modern slavery tend to be conflict-affected, have state-imposed forced labour, and have weak governance.


Least prevalent

The countries with the lowest prevalence of modern slavery are those with strong governance and strong government responses to modern slavery.


What is modern slavery?

Modern slavery takes many forms and is known by many names. Essentially, it refers to situations of exploitation that a person cannot refuse or leave because of threats, violence, coercion, or deception.

Modern slavery includes forced labour, forced or servile marriage, debt bondage, forced commercial sexual exploitation, human trafficking, slavery-like practices, and the sale and exploitation of children. In all its forms, it is the removal of a person’s freedom — their freedom to accept or refuse a job, their freedom to leave one employer for another, or their freedom to decide if, when, and whom to marry — in order to exploit them for personal or financial gain.

Modern slavery thrives in silence. That’s why we created the Global Slavery Index. The Index answers three key questions for 160 countries: how many people are living in modern slavery, what makes people vulnerable, and what are governments doing to address it?

Photo credit: Muhammed Said/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Idlib, Syria, December 2020. A young boy crushes stones to sell as construction materials and help support his family living in a tent camp for internally displaced people. Photo credit: Muhammed Said/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images.





South Sudan

Global vulnerability rank

Photo credit: Eduardo Soteras / AFP via Getty Images



Global vulnerability rank



Global vulnerability rank

K’elafo, Ethiopia, January 2023. Ethiopia, Somalia, and Kenya have experienced their worst drought in four decades. The UN estimates drought has led to 12 million Ethiopians experiencing acute food insecurity, increasing the risk of exploitation. Photo Credit: Eduardo Soteras / AFP. Getty Images.


Each year, thousands of people living in and fleeing warzones are subjected to horrific violence and abuse. Forced recruitment and use by armed groups, abductions and kidnapping for ransom, forced marriage, and forced labour are among the daily risks faced.

Climate Change

The adverse impacts of climate change magnify other drivers of displacement such as loss of livelihoods, poverty, food insecurity, and a lack of access to water and other resources, pushing people to migrate and exposing these vulnerable populations to modern slavery.

understanding what drives modern slavery

Modern slavery is inextricably linked with global challenges such as climate degradation, gender inequality, COVID-19, and conflict.

Those fleeing conflict, natural disasters, or repression of their rights, or are seeking to migrate for work, are particularly vulnerable to exploitation, with more people migrating now than at any other point in the last five decades. The widescale deterioration of civil and political rights in the face of these multiple crises increases risks for those already vulnerable to modern slavery. The most vulnerable – women, children, and migrants – remain disproportionately affected.

The 2023 Global Slavery Index provides an assessment of the extent to which a country’s population is vulnerable to modern slavery for 160 countries. These national assessments of vulnerability help to inform our estimates of the prevalence of modern slavery, can inform the allocation and direction of anti-slavery efforts, and help to identify future areas of research.

Understanding how modern slavery manifests

Modern slavery exists in every region and every country, yet the way modern slavery manifests within a country depends on the unique combination of drivers, the size and distribution of vulnerable groups within a population, and the way in which governments respond to vulnerability.

For example, forced marriage is pervasive in countries where patriarchal views lead to gender inequality and discrimination, reinforced, for example, by laws that prevent women from inheriting land or the absence of laws stipulating 18 years old as minimum of age of marriage. In countries with large populations of migrants and without sufficient labour protections for them, forced labour can be particularly pervasive. In other countries, forced labour is perpetrated by the state, leaving victims with little recourse for remedy.

forced marriage

Photo credit: Pedro Pardo / AFP via Getty Images

commercial sexual exploitation of children

forced labour

debt bondage

Nouakchott, Mauritania, June 2018. Mabrouka was a child when she was taken from her mother, also a survivor of forced labour, and was made to work as a domestic servant. Although freed in 2011, she was never able to go to school, and was married two years later, aged 16.

Forced and Child Marriage

Forced marriage is driven by a variety of factors such as gender biases, harmful cultural practices, poverty, sexuality, gender identity, socio-political instability, conflict, climate change, irregular migration, and a lack of access to education and employment. Eradicating forced marriage worldwide will require a concerted effort by all governments.

forced labour

In 2021, an estimated 3.9 million people were forced to work by state authorities. State-imposed forced labour takes many forms, including abuse of conscription, compulsory prison labour, or as a means of racial, social, national, and religious discrimination.


An estimated 5.4 million children worldwide live in orphanages and other institutions. In many countries, only a small proportion of children’s institutions are registered with the government, which leaves many children invisible to necessary oversight and protections.


governments have criminalised forced marriage


countries criminalise forced labour

Photo credit: Sameer Al-Doumya / AFP via Getty Images


countries criminalise human trafficking


governments have mandatory human rights due diligence legislation

Dunkirk, France, October 2022. A migrant man carrying a child runs to board a smuggler’s boat. Migrants forced by circumstance take dangerous journeys to find a better life. Hostile attitudes increase their risk of exploitation.

Understanding how well governments are responding to modern slavery

Nearly every government in the world has committed to eradicating modern slavery through their national legislation and policies, yet progress has largely stagnated since 2018.

While it is everyone’s responsibility to address modern slavery, governments have a central role to play by enacting legislation, providing safety nets for their population, and pursuing criminals who participate in these hideous crimes.

The global challenges of COVID-19, conflict, and climate change have diverted resources and attention away from modern slavery, leading to a reduction in focus on tackling it. In the top 10 global responses to modern slavery in 2023, there has been little progress. However, there is promising action elsewhere.


The promise of decent wages and steady employment attracts many migrants to the Arab States. However, their reality often differs substantially once they are in country and under the kafala (sponsorship) system.

Social Media

There is mounting evidence social media is used to facilitate modern slavery, with perpetrators able to target multiple people in different locations, access their personal information, and exploit vulnerabilities while shielded by online anonymity.

Government response to modern slavery (%)

Understanding how we are linked to modern slavery through the products we buy

While estimating prevalence of modern slavery where it occurs is critical in identifying where the need for intervention is greatest and most pressing, it does not paint a complete picture of where responsibility lies.

Although the highest prevalence of forced labour is found in low-income countries, it is deeply connected to demand from higher-income countries. The production and movement of goods between countries – from the sourcing of raw materials to manufacturing, packaging, and transportation – creates complex and opaque supply chains, many of them tainted with forced labour.

In 2021, G20 countries imported US$468 billion worth of goods at-risk of modern slavery. We present breakdowns of the top five highest-value at-risk products imported by each G20 country.



United Kingdom




Photo credit: Rober Solsona / Europa Press via Getty Images




Valencia, Spain, December 2022. A woman looks at clothes. Garments are the second highest value product at risk of forced labour imported by G20 countries.

Of the products at-risk of being produced with modern slavery, G20 countries spent the most on:



Forced labour in fisheries is driven by the motivation to reduce costs amid diminishing profits, as the industry tries to meet global demand for seafood. Technology offers solutions to tackling it.


The farming and harvesting of cocoa beans are particularly vulnerable to forced labour, trafficking, and the worst forms of child labour. Some brands are serious in their approach to preventing any forced labour that occurs in their supply chains.


Garment workers, hidden deep within supply chains, face poor or exploitative working conditions, including poverty wages, piece-rate pay, forced and unpaid overtime, irregular work, health and safety risks, and lack of benefits. Businesses should do much more to address forced labour occurring in their supply chains.


There are multiple ways the financial sector is exposed to risks of modern slavery, including through its operations, supply chains, and business relationships. At the same time, financial institutions have a critical role to play in combating slavery.


Understand how the different components of the 2023 Global Slavery Index were developed, including our methodology for estimating prevalence and our framework for assessing government responses.

prevalence estimates for



Photo credit: Brianna Soukup / Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

government response ratings for




government response submissions from NGOs

Portland, United States, January 2018. Cary Dyer tells her story of survival during a vigil in support of the National Human Trafficking Awareness Day.

Murky Waters

Promising Practices

Photo credit: Kazi Salahuddin Razu / NurPhoto via Getty Images

Photo credit: Getty Images

Global Estimates of Modern Slavery

Dhaka, Bangladesh, January 2021. Labourers unload coal from a cargo ship in Gabtoli on the outskirts of Dhaka. After unloading 30 baskets of coal they earn around US$1. Photo credit: Kazi Salahuddin Razu/NurPhoto. Getty Images.


Download the Global Slavery Index 2023 in full or in sections from the resources section of our website.

The Global Slavery Index 2023

Download the full report.

The Global Slavery Index 2023 Dataset

Download the country-level data on prevalence of modern slavery, vulnerability to modern slavery, and government responses to modern slavery. Also includes data on G20 at-risk imports and Wikirate data assessing company modern slavery statements.

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