Slavery today

In 2016, global slavery index estimate that 45.8 million people are in some form of modern slavery in 167 countries.

According to the CNN Freedom Project, modern slavery is defined as “when one person completely controls another person, using violence or the threat of violence to maintain that control, exploits them economically and they can not walk away”.

These are the countries with the highest estimated prevalence of modern slavery by the proportion of their population:

  • North Korea
  • Uzbekistan
  • Cambodia
  • India
  • Qatar

In North Korea, there is pervasive evidence that government-sanctioned forced labour occurs in an extensive system of prison labour camps while North Korean women are subjected to forced marriage and commercial sexual exploitation in China and other neighbouring states. In Uzbekistan, the government continues to subject its citizens to forced labour in the annual cotton harvest.

In Uzbekistan, children as young as seven years old are forced to work in the cotton fields during the annual sowing, weeding and harvest cycles, in order to fulfill government-set harvest quotas enforced on farmers and local administrators.

Related Article: Cotton Slavery in Uzbekistan

These are the  countries with the highest absolute numbers of people in modern slavery:

  • India
  • China
  • Pakistan
  • Bangladesh
  • Uzbekistan

Several of these countries provide the low-cost labour that produces consumer goods like clothing for retail western retail brands for markets in Western Europe, Japan, North America and Australia.

Slave Labor in the Garment Industry

In the late 1980’s garment production in the US alone employed at over 1 Million workers. The next decade would see the start of outsourcing these jobs to countries like China and now, most of our clothing is made in countries where the labor is cheap.

According to a 2011 report by O’Rourke Group Partners, a consulting firm based in New York, a generic $14 polo shirt sold in Canada and manufactured in Bangladesh costs a retailer only $5.67. To achieve such low numbers, workers receive 12 cents per shirt—or just 2 percent of the wholesale cost.

The next time you shop, consider looking up the retailers supply chain transparency or you could be supporting slavery.

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