New Report Finds Slavery Worse Than Ever, With 40.3 Million People Currently Enslaved

Modern day slavery is very real.

Photo credit:Photo: Finbarr O'Reilly/Reuters

| October 13 2017,

8:15 pm

We recently reported about an incident of modern slavery in the U.S., the tragic story of a mentally disabled black man who was enslaved by a white restaurant manager for years.

This man is not alone.

“We now have the largest number of slaves on Earth than we’ve had in human history,” Andrew Forrest told the LA Times.

Forrest is one of the authors of a new report that investigates the prevalence of modern slavery.

The report's authors drew from 71,000 interviews across 48 countries, and came away with some very grim data.

It turns out, that approximately 89 million people have suffered some form of bondage in the past 5 years. To put that number into context, the population of Germany is 83 million people. 

Here's some good news: Forrest believes we are at a point where we can end slavery once and for all.

“We also feel equally as confident that we have the weapons now, we have the communications skills, we have the interest to raise it to public attention,” Forrest said. “As soon as the public becomes aware that slavery exists among them they can ask the question when they’re at the teller, or when they’re at the shops, or when they’re buying clothes, how can I be sure that this clothing, this seafood, this product wasn’t made by slaves? And with that question frees a slave.”

Photo: The International Labor Organization, Walk Free Foundation

The report showed that slavery is most prevalent in Africa, then Asia, the Pacific, Europe and Central Asia. The authors had trouble obtaining data from the Americas and Arab countries.  

The analyzing the data they were able to collect gave them these horrifying numbers:

An estimated 40.3 million people lived in bondage in 2016.

151.6 million children (5 to 17 years old) were victims of forced labor.

5.7 million children were victims of forced marriage.

4.1 million people were enslaved by their governments.

2.8 million adults were forced into sexual exploitation; 1 million children were forced into sexual slavery.

71 percent of the world's slaves are women and girls.

“Today, women and girls are predominantly being subjected to forced labor in domestic work and the sex industry, whereas men and boys are being subjected to forced labor in construction, in manufacturing and in fishing,” Fiona David, another contributor to the study, told the Times.

David said that squashing slavery has been so tricky because of the ingenuity of criminals who work as slavers.

"As one form of slavery becomes illegal or becomes very difficult to perpetrate, criminals really look for the weakest link and they find new ways to exploit vulnerability,” David said.

But those that trade in slaves aren't the only ones to blame, Forrest stressed.

“Slavery is a crime of opportunity,” Forrest said. “If you’re in Bahrain and you’re enslaving an African girl … because you think you’re a higher species of human, you’re in fact nothing more than the modern day slaver who used to ship Africans out of Africa to Europe and North America for blood money.”

In the face of all of this, what can we do to help?

Forrest said that beyond thinking about where our good come from, putting pressure on our governments is the best thing to do.

“I think that there’s real hope in the world that slavery can come to an end with the united action of business and government,” said Forrest. “That is absolutely the solution.”

The full report, "Global Estimates of Modern Slavery," is available free online, for those that would like to read it.