January 2, 2018

Our December 18th blog detailed the five countries where modern-day slavery is most prevalent. In Part II of our series, we look at the countries with the greatest number of individuals living in modern-day slavery.

According to the Global Slavery Index, the top five countries – by the numbers – for modern-day slavery are India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Uzbekistan. These five countries account for 58% of individuals living in modern-day slavery. It is significant to note that India and Uzbekistan are in the top five countries for both prevalence and number.

India

India is among the top five countries both by prevalence and total number of individuals living in modern-day slavery. Global Slavery Index survey data reveals that approximately 18 million people – the most in the world— are victims of modern-day slavery. Debt bondage, a type of forced labor that compels an individual to work to pay off a debt – often from previous generations – is the most common form of modern slavery in India. Men, women, and children are all engaged in debt bondage and forced to work in brick kilns, rice mills, agriculture, and factories. Consistent with global trends, the most vulnerable groups to modern slavery in India are those in the lowest caste, minority groups, and migrants, and particularly women and children from these communities. Forced labor also occurs outside of debt bondage; children are exploited to work as carpet weavers, domestic servants, and beggars, as well as in factories and agriculture. Further, it’s reported that organizers of begging rings intentionally mutilate children as a way to earn more money. It is estimated that millions are subjected to sex trafficking. Child sex trafficking is common in areas of religious pilgrimage and tourist destinations. Foreign women and children are vulnerable to sex trafficking, particularly those from Nepal and Bangladesh. Forced marriages and recruitment of children into armed forces also continue to be prevalent in India.

China

According to the Global Slavery Index, 3.38 million people are victims of modern-day slavery in China. The internal migrant population, which is thought to exceed 180 million people, and the poor are particularly vulnerable to trafficking and are subjected to forced labor in brick kilns, coal-mines, and factories, among other labor sectors. State-sponsored forced labor, though technically outlawed in a series of policy changes from 2015 to 2017, is believed to continue, particularly among the minority Uighur population.

Sex trafficking and forced marriage continue to be prevalent in China. Traffickers often lure Chinese girls and women from rural areas to cities through the promise of work, but exploit them in the commercial sex trade. Outside of China, the TIP Report estimates that Chinese citizens are victims of sex trafficking in 19 other countries. China’s sex imbalance – due, in part, to the One Child Policy – has created a large demand for brides, both Chinese and foreign. To keep up with demand, women have been trafficked from countries such as Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and North Korea. Poor Chinese men often purchase a foreign bride because the price is much less than the needed dowries and gifts to marry a local.

Further, both the Global Slavery Index and the U.S. State Department’s TIP Report state that the Chinese government is not making significant efforts to address the issue.

Pakistan

Approximately 2.1 million people in Pakistan are victims of modern-day slavery, according to the Global Slavery Index. Bonded labor is the most frequent form of trafficking and is most common in agriculture and brick kilns, as well as fisheries, mining, carpet-making, and other handicrafts. Children are vulnerable to forced begging, domestic servitude, brick kilns, and sex trafficking and the TIP Report specifically highlights reports of boys victimized by sex trafficking surrounding truck stops, bus stations, and shrines. There are also reports of girls “used as chattel to settle debts or disputes” and systematic exploitation of LGBTQ+ individuals in sex trafficking. Forced marriage continues to be an issue in Pakistan with women and girls sold as brides and, according to the TIP Report, sometimes forced into prostitution by their husbands in Iran or Afghanistan.

Pakistan also serves as a destination country for men, women, and children from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, China, Russia, Nepal, Iran, Uzbekistan, and Azerbaijan, who are subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking.

Outside of Pakistan, men and women who migrate for work are often exploited and forced into bonded labor and/or sex trafficking. This is often the result of working with recruiters who charge high and illegal fees.

Bangladesh

The Global Slavery Index estimates that 1.5 million people are living in modern-day slavery in Bangladesh with sex trafficking, domestic servitude, and forced labor among the most frequent forms of trafficking. Forced labor is the most common form of modern-day slavery in Bangladesh, impacting approximately 1.2 million; manual labor makes up 24% of those in forced labor, followed by 22% in construction, 13% in drug production, and 11% in farming. Forced labor disproportionately impacts boys and men with an estimated 85% of forced labor undertaken by males, though this is flipped in the garment sector. The State Department’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report states that children are vulnerable to forced labor in tanneries, can be sold into bondage by their parents, and that street children specifically are at risk for forced begging. Additionally, Bangladesh’s significant Rohingya population, stateless and often undocumented, is particularly vulnerable to all forms of human trafficking.

Though modern-day slavery occurs throughout the country, Bangladesh often serves as source country for trafficking. Bangladeshis seeking to migrate to the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Europe, or the U.S. for work are often exploited by recruitment agencies prior to their departure. Large and illegal fees often trap individuals in debt bondage. According to the TIP Report, women and girls who operate through recruitment agencies are particularly vulnerable, with evidence showing that those attempting to secure domestic work in Lebanon or Jordan were forced into sex trafficking and other forms of labor in Syria.

Bangladesh has the highest rate of child marriage in the world, with 29% of girls married before the age of 15 and 2% before the age of 11. The Global Slavery Index estimates that 390,000 people are victims of forced prostitution, including girls as young as 9 and 10.

Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan, like India, is among the top five countries both by prevalence and the total number of individuals in modern-day slavery. It is estimated that 1.2 million people in Uzbekistan ­­­­­­are ­­victims of modern-day slavery. Men, women, and children have historically been forced into labor in the country’s cotton fields. Though the government has stated that forced child labor ended in 2015, the 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report mentions that anecdotal evidence shows forced labor of students, aged 11-15, continued. State sanctioned labor by adults in agriculture and construction remains widespread. Further, it is believed that a large portion of cotton harvested through state sanctioned slave labor is in the supply chains of major companies around the world.

Reporting on modern slavery in Uzbekistan is difficult as the government has routinely harassed, threatened, arrested, and abused activists seeking to observe the cotton harvest and weeding seasons. Outside of Uzbekistan, citizens are subjected to forced labor in the construction, oil and gas, agriculture, retail, and hospitality sectors, mostly in Kazakhstan, Turkey, Russia, the United Arab Emirates, and Ukraine. Though forced labor is most prevalent, sex trafficking of Uzbeks occurs both domestically and internationally, victimizing primarily women and children.

For more information on modern-day slavery in these countries and others, visit the Global Slavery Index and the U.S. Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report.

Photo courtesy of Shresthakedar.