NEDLANDS, WESTERN AUSTRALIA – Slavery is not a thing of the past. Despite the efforts of William Wilberforce, Abraham Lincoln, and others, slavery did not end in the 19th century. In fact, according to the 2018 Global Slavery Index, over 70 million people are caught in the throes of 21st century slavery. More than 70 percent are women and young girls.
The United States Department of State defines ‘modern slavery’ and ‘human trafficking’ as synonyms for “recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing, or obtaining a person for compelled labor or commercial sex acts through the use of force, fraud, or coercion.” Other entities, such as the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, also use ‘involuntary servitude,’ ‘debt bondage,’ and ‘forced labor’ to describe modern slavery.
When it comes to issues like the abolition of slavery, the fact that is has been officially abolished and is illegal in all countries does not mean that slavery does not exist. Rather, it is a highly-profitable and well-hidden business.
Andrew Forrest, the founder of the Global Slavery Index, explained, “ It’s widely accepted that most crimes go unreported and unrecorded, because the victims are marginalized and vulnerable, and the black economy thrives where accountability is absent . . . We cannot sit back while millions of women, girls, men, and boys around the world are having their lives destroyed and their potential extinguished by criminals seeking a quick profit.”
The survey, much like Open Door’s World Watch List which ranks countries where persecution of Christians is the greatest, ranks countries where modern slavery is rampant. The ten countries with the highest prevalence of human slavery are, in order,
- North Korea*†
- The Central African Republic*
- South Sudan
Countries marked with an asterisk (*) also rank in the top 10 countries that take the least action to combat slavery.
Countries marked with a dagger (†) also rank in the top 10 countries on the Open Doors World Watch List.
Slavery is most prevalent in developing countries in Africa and Asia where poverty exists in abundance, and in areas that are suffering from military conflicts.
Yet, the G20 countries have some culpability in the prevalence of modern slavery as businesses in these countries are always seeking lower costs to remain competitive in the marketplace. Moving business to developing countries where costs are cheaper has represented one of the most compelling cost-reduction tools of the past three decades.
Whether automobile parts, IT components, clothing, or a myriad of other products, G20 countries have vigorously sought suppliers in countries where the ability to provide low-cost goods is, at least in part, due to forced labor. Even the fishing industry is heavily into using slave labor. Once the laborer has been provided and the ship has sailed it is nearly impossible for the captive laborers to escape.
It is very likely that, when Americans buy clothes that were made in developing countries, slave labor was involved at some level.
It is a global problem and it is a growing problem. And, although it is easy to blame poverty in developing countries for modern slavery, the driving factor of economic greed may be just as much to blame, not only for the slaveholders, but for the commercial entities in the U.S. and other G20 countries that look for a competitive advantage available only in countries where “labor is cheap.” In one way or another, this has always been a driver of slavery.
For more on this topic, visit 21st Century Slavery & Human Trafficking.
- The 2018 Global Slavery Index, Executive Summary
- The Christian Post, Which Country Has the Most Human Slaves in the World? Global Index Lists Top 10
- Quartz, Africa is now the world’s epicenter of modern-day slavery
- The Maritime Executive, Slavery: The Confronting Reality of the Top Ten
- The Washington Post, North Korea has 2.6 million ‘modern slaves,’ new report estimates
- Wikipedia, Contemporary Slavery
- The Guardian, Over 400,000 people living in ‘modern slavery’ in the US, report finds