The latest Global Slavery Index, produced by human rights group Walk Free, reveals the 10 countries with the highest prevalence of modern slavery are North Korea, Eritrea, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Türkiye, Tajikistan, United Arab Emirates, Russia, Afghanistan, and Kuwait.
“Modern slavery permeates every aspect of our society. It is woven through our clothes, lights up our electronics, and seasons our food. At its core, modern slavery is a manifestation of extreme inequality. It is a mirror held to power, reflecting who in any given society has it and who does not. Nowhere is this paradox more present than in our global economy through transnational supply chains,” said Founding Director of Walk Free, Grace Forrest.
The report highlights the role played by G20 nations in fuelling forced labour within global supply chains, including state-imposed forced labour. The G20 accounts for over half of all people living in modern slavery and imports US$468 billion of at-risk products annually. The United States was by far the biggest importer of at-risk products (US$169.6 billion). Electronics remained the highest value at-risk product (US$243.6 billion), followed by garments (US$147.9 billion), palm oil (US$19.7 billion), solar panels (US$14.8 billion), and textiles (US$12.7 billion).
The report revealed six G20 nations are among the countries with the largest number of people in modern slavery, India (11 million), China (5.8 million), Russia (1.9 million), Indonesia (1.8 million), Türkiye (1.3 million) and the United States (1.1 million).
The report also shows how climate change has exacerbated modern slavery, forcing millions of people to migrate in unplanned ways putting them at higher risk of exploitation. Increasingly intense weather events are displacing communities and spurring risks of modern slavery; while sectors at high risk of forced labour, such as mining, logging, and textile/garment manufacturing, contribute to climate degradation. There is increasing evidence that renewable industries, vital for transitioning to clean energy, are reliant on forced labour.
Since 2018 the number of people living in modern slavery has increased to 50 million, but government action has stagnated, particularly among those with traditionally stronger responses. The global community is even further from achieving the goals they agreed to make a priority; no government is on track to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goal 8.7 of ending modern slavery, forced labour, and human trafficking by 2030.
In recent years, Australia, Canada, Germany, and Norway have introduced legislation to hold business and government accountable for exploitation that occurs in global supply chains. While a step in the right direction, G20 countries should be using their leverage to move from intention to real action.
Forrest added: “With 50 million people living in modern slavery today, this Global Slavery Index demands immediate action. Walk Free is calling on governments around the world to step up their efforts to end modern slavery on their shores and in their supply chains. We know the scale of the issue and have the knowledge and the policies needed to act. What we need now is political will.”
The report calls on governments around the world to immediately take the following five key actions: