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
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people in Pakistan
people in India
people in China
people in North Korea
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.
The countries with the lowest prevalence of modern slavery are those with strong governance and strong government responses to modern slavery.
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?
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Global vulnerability rank
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Global vulnerability rank
Global vulnerability rank
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.
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.
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commercial sexual exploitation of children
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.
governments have criminalised forced marriage
countries criminalise forced labour
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countries criminalise human trafficking
governments have mandatory human rights due diligence legislation
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.
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.
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Of the products at-risk of being produced with modern slavery, G20 countries spent the most on:
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.
prevalence estimates for
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government response ratings for
government response submissions from NGOs
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Photo credit: Getty Images
Global Estimates of Modern Slavery
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.