It is a confronting reality that even in the present day, men, women and children all over the world remain victims of modern slavery. They are bought and sold in public markets, forced to marry against their will and provide labour under the guise of “marriage,” forced to work inside clandestine factories on the promise of a salary that is often withheld, or on fishing boats where men and boys toil under threats of violence. They are forced to work on construction sites, in stores, on farms, or in homes as maids. Labour extracted through force, coercion, or threats produces some of the food we eat, the clothes we wear, and the footballs we kick. The minerals that men, women, and children have been made to extract from mines find their way into cosmetics, electronics, and cars, among many other products.
This is modern slavery. It is widespread and pervasive, often unacknowledged, and its extent was previously believed to be unknowable. In 2017, the Walk Free Foundation and the International Labour Organization (ILO), together with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), developed the Global Estimates of Modern Slavery, which provides the best available data and information about the scale and regional distribution of modern slavery. These estimates provide the starting point for this report, the Global Slavery Index. The national estimates presented here were calculated by the Walk Free Foundation on the basis of a predictive model that accounted for individual and country-level risk factors and resulting prevalence estimates were then adjusted to ensure regional totals were aligned with the regional totals in the Global Estimates of Modern Slavery.
An analysis of the national estimates in this Global Slavery Index confirms that modern slavery is a crime that affects all countries globally, including, perhaps surprisingly, highly developed countries. While an understanding of prevalence is critical to formulating sound policy responses to modern slavery, equally important is building our understanding of what is driving prevalence. For this reason, the national prevalence estimates are analysed in the context of results of the Vulnerability Model, which provides important context for understanding the national results.
In this chapter, we also consider the important issue of government responses to modern slavery. The Government Response Index provides a comparable measure of the steps being taken by 181 countries across 104 indicators of good practice. An analysis of these findings confirms that while there has been important progress made since the publication of the last Global Slavery Index in 2016, there are still critical gaps and responses to them need to be developed.
Overall, our findings confirm that modern slavery remains a critical issue for all countries. Just as responding to environmental concerns cannot be the task of one country alone, responding to modern slavery is a challenge that requires commitment and effort from all countries.
What does the data tell us about modern slavery?
It is widely acknowledged that measuring modern slavery is a difficult undertaking, not least because no single source provides suitable and reliable data on all forms of modern slavery. In developing the Global Estimates of Modern Slavery, the Walk Free Foundation and the ILO adopted a methodology that combined survey research involving face-to-face interviews with more than 71,000 people in 53 local languages with administrative data on victims of trafficking who had been assisted by the IOM. An estimate of forced labour imposed by state authorities was derived from validated sources and systematic review of comments from the ILO supervisory bodies with regard to the ILO Conventions on forced labour.
An estimated 40.3 million men, women, and children were victims of modern slavery on any given day in 2016.1 Of these, 24.9 million people were in forced labour and 15.4 million people were living in a forced marriage. Women and girls are vastly over-represented, making up 71 percent of victims. Modern slavery is most prevalent in Africa, followed by the Asia and the Pacific region.
Although these are the most reliable estimates of modern slavery to date, we know they are conservative as significant gaps in data remain. The current Global Estimates do not cover all forms of modern slavery; for example, organ trafficking, child soldiers, or child marriage that could also constitute forced marriage are not able to be adequately measured at this time. Further, at a broad regional level there is high confidence in the estimates in all but one of the five regions. Estimates of modern slavery in the Arab States are affected by substantial gaps in the available data.2 Given this is a region that hosts 17.6 million migrant workers,3 representing more than one-tenth of all migrant workers in the world and one in three workers in the Arab States, and one in which forced marriage is reportedly widespread, the current estimate is undoubtedly a significant underestimate.
Notwithstanding these critical data gaps, the 2018 Global Slavery Index presents national-level estimates for 167 countries based on the proportion of the population that is estimated to be in some form of modern slavery.
The 10 countries with the highest prevalence of modern slavery are
- North Korea
- the Central African Republic
- South Sudan
An analysis of the ten countries with highest prevalence indicates a connection between modern slavery and two major external drivers- highly repressive regimes and conflict. As the data in this Global Slavery Index confirm, several of the countries with the highest prevalence of modern slavery – the Central African Republic, Afghanistan, South Sudan, and Pakistan – also score above 90 percent in the Vulnerability Model, which measures systemic, individual, and environmental risk factors in 167 countries. The interplay between modern slavery and risk factors is discussed further below.
Despite a change in methodology, Mauritania and Cambodia remained in the top 10 in 2018. Mauritania continues to host a high proportion of people living in modern slavery. The national survey confirmed the existence of forced marriage and forced labour. Forced labour was found to occur in different sectors, to both males and females across different age groups and geographic regions. The practice is entrenched in Mauritanian society with slave status being inherited, and deeply rooted in social castes and the wider social system. Those owned by masters often have no freedom to own land, cannot claim dowries from their marriages nor inherit property or possessions from their families. Despite improvements to legislation in 2015, which strengthens the provisions on slavery, allows third parties to bring cases on behalf of slavery victims, and establishes special tribunals to investigate slavery crimes, progress in Mauritania remains slow.25 There are reports that police and the judiciary are reluctant to implement the new legislation and that several cases of slavery have been reclassified as lesser crimes, although the ILO Committee of Experts notes some positive steps in recent times.26 In Cambodia, men, women, and children are known to be exploited in various forms of modern slavery – including forced labour, debt bondage and forced marriage. While the prevalence of forced sexual exploitation and forced begging in the country has been reported previously, the national survey also pointed to forced labour in manufacturing, farming, construction and domestic work. In Cambodia, the government has been slow to improve their response to modern slavery.27
Three main trends emerge from the national estimates of modern slavery.
Many of the countries with the highest estimated levels of prevalence are marked by conflict – Eritrea, Burundi, Central African Republic, Afghanistan, South Sudan, and Pakistan all appear among the 10 countries with highest prevalence. The role that conflict plays in compounding vulnerability to slavery is widely recognised and finds support in an assessment of vulnerability at the national level. In the Walk Free Foundation’s assessment of vulnerability across five dimensions – governance issues, lack of basic needs, inequality, disenfranchised groups, and effects of conflict – countries with high vulnerability due to effects of conflict generally have higher vulnerability scores across the remaining four dimensions. This is not surprising given the disruption to, and often complete dismantling of, the rule of law, as well as damage to critical infrastructure and limited access to education, health care, and food and water as a result of conflict. Similarly, the Walk Free Foundation’s government response data highlight the disruption caused by conflict to government functions. Eritrea, Central African Republic, Pakistan, and Iran all score lowly on government responses, while Afghanistan and South Sudan were excluded from the government response assessment this year due to significant ongoing conflict.
The improved measurement of state-imposed forced labour reveals the substantial impact this form of slavery has on populations. The three countries with highest prevalence – North Korea, Eritrea, and Burundi – stand out has having a very high prevalence of state-imposed forced labour. State-imposed forced labour includes citizens recruited by their state authorities to participate in agriculture or construction work for purposes of economic development, young military conscripts forced to perform work that is not of military nature, those forced to perform communal services that were not decided upon at the community level and do not benefit them, or prisoners forced to work against their will.28 In North Korea, one in 10 people are in modern slavery with the vast majority being forced to work by the state. See "Spotlight: Forced Labour in North Korea" on this page for further analysis.
Governments that regularly impose forced labour on their citizens perform poorly across other measures of vulnerability. For example, they tend to be more autocratic, are believed to have lower quality policy and regulations, perform below the global average in ensuring access to necessities such as food and water and health care, and typically do not protect the rights of highly discriminated groups in the broader population. More specifically, the presence of state-imposed forced labour undermines at best, and at worst renders meaningless, any government response to modern slavery. North Korea has the weakest response to modern slavery globally due to the state’s role in forced labour both within North Korea and of North Koreans abroad. The abuse of civic duties in Burundi and conscription in Eritrea also threatens any concrete actions these governments may be taking.
The prevalence of modern slavery in highly developed, high-income countries is higher than previously understood. This learning reflects improvements in the methodology, in particular, the ability to systematically count cases at the point of exploitation which was made possible with a substantially larger number of surveys. For example, if an Indian man reported being exploited in the construction sector in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), that case was attributed to UAE. In the five-year reference period for the estimates, while surveys were conducted in 48 countries, men, women, and children were reported to have been exploited in 79 countries. This results in higher estimates in countries such as the United States, Australia, United Kingdom, Germany, France, the Netherlands, and several other European nations.
Figure 1Estimated prevalence of modern slavery by country (noting 10 countries with highest prevalence, estimated victims per 1,000 population)
While these findings emphasise the responsibility of highly developed countries to act, the estimates reveal only part of the picture. It is important to note that the governments in several of these countries - the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, the United States, Sweden, Belgium, Croatia, Spain, Norway, Portugal, and Montenegro – are also taking the most action to respond to modern slavery. These countries also tend to have lower vulnerability scores across all measures, which reflects effective governance across a broad range of areas and, in particular, a strong capacity to provide protections for vulnerable subgroups and ensure access to necessities such as food and water. Collectively, these factors mitigate risks of enslavement for citizens. However, higher prevalence of modern slavery among these countries suggests that critical gaps remain around the implementation of existing legislation and policies and in tackling the root causes of exploitation. It is very likely that this reflects the reality that, even in countries with seemingly strong systems, there are gaps in protections, with certain groups such as irregular migrants, the homeless, or minorities subject to intense and widespread discrimination and typically less able to access protection. In Europe, which has had a very strong response to modern slavery, there has been a tightening of migration policy and a reduction in the protections available to migrants in recent years. While in part this is a response to the current refugee and migrant crisis, this also renders these individuals more vulnerable to modern slavery. Similar approaches have also been adopted in the US and Australia.
On the other hand, when our assessment of government responses is correlated against GDP (PPP) per capita, we find that some highly developed, high-income countries have taken limited action to respond to modern slavery. Countries including Qatar, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE have taken limited action despite high levels of resources (see Table 2). These countries tend to perform relatively well in comparison with other countries in the region on overall vulnerability scores given their greater capacity to address areas of critical need for citizens. However, there remain gaps in protections for migrant populations, often the most vulnerable groups to modern slavery in these countries. Even a seemingly strong response is undermined where there are subgroups of people who suffer high levels of discrimination, as they are likely to be “left behind” where responses to slavery are concerned. This can be linked to a lack of legal status in a country, for example, women in Saudi Arabia, domestic workers who fall outside the protection of labour laws in most Gulf countries, or the stateless hill tribes of Thailand and the Rohingya people of Myanmar, the latter of whom are at the center of the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis.29
The 10 countries with the largest estimated absolute numbers of people in modern slavery include some of the world’s most populous.30 Collectively, these 10 countries – India, China, Pakistan, North Korea, Nigeria, Iran, Indonesia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Russia, and the Philippines – account for 60 percent of people living in modern slavery and over half the world’s population.
Figure 2Vulnerability to modern slavery by country (noting 10 countries with highest average vulnerability score)
While regional estimates were presented in the Global Estimates of Modern Slavery, critical gaps in available data were noted. These are particularly problematic in the Arab States, where only two national surveys were undertaken, none of which were in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, despite the incidence of forced labour reported there by various sources in such sectors as domestic work and construction. Further, measurement of forced marriage among residents of countries within the region is almost impossible where there are no surveys at all. Taken together, these gaps point to a significant underestimate of the extent of modern slavery in this region.
Similarly, it is typically not possible to survey in countries that are experiencing profound and current conflict, such as Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, South Sudan, and parts of Nigeria and Pakistan. Yet it is known that conflict is a significant risk factor for modern slavery – the breakdown of the rule of law, the loss of social supports, and the disruption that occurs with conflict all increase risk of both forced labour and forced marriage. The lack of data from countries experiencing conflict means that modern slavery estimates in regions in which conflict countries are situated will understate the problem. While drawing on vulnerability data goes some way towards mitigating the impact of this gap, the need for better data in conflict countries remains an urgent research priority.
Comparability of the prevalence estimates to the previous Global Slavery Index
Due to substantial differences in scope, methodologies, and expanded data sources, prevalence estimates in the 2018 GSI are not directly comparable to the previous edition. Since 2014, nationally representative household surveys have formed the core element of the Walk Free Foundation’s approach to measuring modern slavery. In 2016, our estimates were based on results of surveys in 25 countries through the Gallup World Poll,31 the results of which were extrapolated to countries with an equivalent risk profile. Although this represented the best data available at the time, measurements of forced sexual exploitation and children in modern slavery were identified as critical data gaps to address in future estimations.
In 2017, these gaps were addressed by adopting a combined methodological approach when developing the Global Estimates of Modern Slavery with the ILO and the IOM. This involved drawing on three sources of data: (1) The existing survey program was expanded to cover 48 surveys in 54 countries. To date, more than 71,000 people have been interviewed and the countries surveyed represent over half of the world’s population. It is the most extensive survey program on modern slavery ever undertaken and forms the central component of the Global Estimates of Modern Slavery.32 (2) Administrative data from IOM’s databases of assisted victims of trafficking. And (3) data derived from validated secondary sources and a systematic review of comments from the ILO supervisory bodies regarding ILO Conventions on forced labour. The Global Slavery Index 2018 uses the same data sources and regional and global estimates as its starting point.
As an example of the impact of changes in methodology on the comparability between the previous and current prevalence estimates, the 2016 Index estimated that around 18.3 million people were in modern slavery in India, whereas the 2018 Index estimates that there are around 8 million people living in modern slavery. This difference reflects the presentation of the number who experienced modern slavery on any given day in 2016 (a “stock” figure) as opposed to the number of people in slavery over a five year period (a “flow” figure), as was presented in 2016. The present estimates also reflect the addition of forced sexual exploitation and children in modern slavery. For a fuller list of the changes to the methodology, refer to Appendix 2: Part B.
What are governments doing to address modern slavery?
Figure 3Government response rating to modern slavery by country (noting 10 countries with highest government response)
Globally, governments have taken important strides in the fight against modern slavery since the publication of the 2016 Global Slavery Index. Overall, the Government Response Index suggests that national legal, policy, and programmatic responses to modern slavery are improving, with an increasing number of countries with a BBB and BB rating in 2018 over 2016, and fewer CCC and CC ratings. However, there are some responses that appear to be going backwards, with a small increase in the number of countries that were rated C or D in 2018 compared to 2016.
In 2018, 122 countries have criminalised human trafficking in line with the UN Trafficking Protocol,37 while only 38 countries have criminalised forced marriage. There are now 154 countries that provide services for victims, compared to 150 in 2016, although important gaps remain. Eighty-two countries report gaps in the provision of services to either migrants, men, and children, or a combination of these. More countries are now coordinating their responses, with a three percent increase in the number of countries implementing National Action Plans covering some, if not all, aspects of a modern slavery response.38 One of the more striking findings in 2018 is the growing government engagement with business and the increasing political interest in the investigation of government procurement, with 36 countries taking steps to investigate forced labour in private or public supply chains. This is a significant increase from the four governments identified in 2016.
This year, we have for the first time included data on all 53 Commonwealth countries in our government response database,39 bringing the total number of countries included in our assessment to 181.40 As data for the smaller island nations of the Commonwealth are limited, we have not provided an overall rating for these individual countries. However, taking these countries into account in our global analysis of key indicators does reveal an encouraging narrative: when including all Commonwealth countries, the number of countries criminalising human trafficking increases to 135, with 164 countries providing services to victims of modern slavery. Due to the ongoing conflict and extreme disruption to government, we have not included ratings for Afghanistan, Iraq, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen this edition.41
In 2018, the governments taking the most action to respond to modern slavery are:
- The Netherlands
- United States
- United Kingdom
These countries are characterised by strong political will, high levels of resources, and a strong civil society that holds these governments to account for their actions to respond to modern slavery. These results are similar to 2016, but with some slight shifts in the positioning of Australia downwards as Belgium moves upwards. While the positive conclusion of the Australian inquiry into an Australian Modern Slavery Act is to be commended, we strongly encourage the government to pass legislation that incorporates an Independent Commissioner. On the other hand, we welcome the issuance of public procurement guidelines in 2017 in Belgium which incorporate suggestions on how to implement ILO Conventions, including the abolition of forced labour42 and the pilot initiative looking at the application of ILO standards in the personal protective equipment sector in Ghent.43
It is not just governments at the top of the table that are taking positive action to respond to modern slavery. Other countries are taking notable action, as well. Morocco44 and Côte d’Ivoire45 passed comprehensive trafficking legislation in 2016, which has resulted in improved ratings from CC to CCC and from CCC to B respectively. Chile has improved its victim protection mechanisms by launching the Blue Campaign, a website to help improve identification of victims46, establishing guidelines47 to help first responders identify and refer victims, and supporting the implementation of the National Referral Mechanism.48 As a result, Chile has moved from a B to BBB rating.
As with the 2016 findings, when correlated against GDP (PPP) per capita, some countries stand out as taking relatively strong action when compared with those that have stronger economies. Countries including Georgia, Moldova, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Mozambique are taking positive steps to respond to this issue relative to their wealth. Sierra Leone’s coordination body, the Inter-Agency Human Trafficking Task Force, resumed activities in 2015 and approved the 2015-2020 National Action Plan. In Georgia, the government adopted a victim-centred approach by establishing victim witness coordinators from the initial stages of investigations through the end of court proceedings.
Since the 2016 Index, more countries have proactively implemented reporting requirements for businesses to detail actions taken to investigate their supply chains for labour violations, including forced labour. Twenty-seven EU member states have fully transposed the EU non-financial reporting Directive (Directive 2014/95/EU) into domestic legislation.49 The Directive requires large companies to disclose certain information on the way they operate and manage social and environment challenges. Although not specific to forced labour, the Directive offers an opportunity for more businesses to demonstrate action taken to combat forced labour beyond those already reporting under the UK government’s Modern Slavery Act. The first non-financial statements will be included in businesses’ annual reports from 2018 onward.
Governments are beginning to recognise that public procurement is also at high risk of modern slavery. The United States leads the way with Executive Orders 13627 (2012) and 13126 (1999), which require mandatory reporting and due diligence from all federal government contractors and subcontractors.50 Guidelines and training on forced labour are provided to all government procurement officials, while the closure of a loophole in the 1930 Tariff Act (19 U.S.C. § 1307) has meant that goods are regularly seized and inspected if they are believed to be produced with forced or child labour.51 In Europe, Article 57 of Directive 2014/24/EU allows for the exclusion of contractors from public procurement where there has been a conviction of human trafficking or child labour.52 At the time of writing, these have been transposed into domestic legislation of all European countries apart from Luxembourg and Austria.53 Interestingly, there is also evidence that the Chinese government has investigated incidents where subcontractors in government contracts have failed to pay wages54 and the Paraguayan National Secretariat for Children and Adolescents has an inter-institutional agreement with the National Bureau for Public Contracts to ensure that any goods or services procured by the government are not produced through child labour. Across Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, general government procurement spending equalled nearly 12 percent of GDP in 2015.55 Tackling government supply chains to reduce instances of forced labour therefore has enormous potential to reduce the number of people in modern slavery.
Governments are increasingly collaborating with businesses to eradicate modern slavery. In 2017, the Bali Process launched the Bali Process Business and Government Forum (BPGBF), which is a subsidiary body to the existing intergovernmental Bali Process.56 The BPGBF is a cooperative initiative to combat modern slavery and human trafficking in the Indo-Pacific region. The Forum brings together government representatives from 45 countries, three United Nations organisations, and the private sector. The initial meeting provided a unique opportunity for information sharing and implementing partnerships with the joint goal of ending modern slavery. Looking ahead, the Forum is expected to have the joint outcome of promoting good business practices across the private sector while also encouraging legislative changes by government.
Countries have taken steps to strengthen criminal justice responses to modern slavery. As of 15th June 2018, the 2014 Forced Labour Protocol is in force in 17 countries, with an additional seven ratifications coming into force in the next 12 months.57 This is important as the Forced Labour Protocol brings the framework created by the 1930 Convention on Forced Labour into the 21st century. The Indian government has taken recent action to reduce the worst forms of child labour by ratifying the ILO Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour. In line with the Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, 56 countries have criminalised the buying and selling of children for sex or sexual services, and 27 have criminalised the use of children in armed conflict. Despite these promising steps, in 64 countries penalties for modern slavery crimes remain disproportionate to their severity, as perpetrators can be penalised with a relatively small fine or conversely penalised with corporal punishment (itself a breach of international human rights standards).
The existence of legislation is not in itself enough to deter modern slavery crimes and in many cases the lack of effective implementation of legislation indicates a significant gap in a government response. While 145 countries have provided at least one training session since 2012 for their front-line police officers on identification of victims and investigation of modern slavery crimes, 11 of these did not subsequently identify any victims, suggesting poor execution or low quality of the training provided. Fewer countries have provided training to judges and prosecutors, with 108 and 109 governments respectively providing training for these groups since 2012. Regular training was provided to judges and prosecutors in South Africa, Bolivia, Jordan, and Serbia, among others, however there are reports that this has not resulted in the most stringent of sentences for identified traffickers and exploiters, with some evidence of suspended sentences or conviction for lesser crimes.
Access to justice and protection for identified victims has improved in some countries. For example, despite an overall poor response in Hong Kong, children and vulnerable witnesses may now give testimony via video conference.58 In Indonesia, the government has opened a child-friendly integrated public space in East Jakarta where child and adult victims of trafficking can report trafficking crimes to trained counsellors.59 Fifty-eight countries have a National Referral Mechanism for victims of modern slavery. In Albania, the establishment of a National Referral Mechanism has been supplemented by Standard Operating Procedures, that are used by regulatory and non-regulatory bodies that may come into contact with victims, including those covering teachers, doctors, and people working in the tourism sector.60 Since 2016, 118 governments have provided funding to shelters or victim support services. Longer-term reintegration services are less frequent, with 97 governments offering measures for foreign victims to remain within the country and 71 governments providing longer term support. Of those 97 countries, only 37 governments offered visas on humanitarian or other grounds not tied to participation in a court case.
While many positive actions were taken by governments around the world in 2018, those taking the least action to combat modern slavery are:
- North Korea
- Central African Republic
- Equatorial Guinea
Those countries with weaker responses to modern slavery are characterised by government complicity (as is the case in North Korea), low levels of political will (as is the case in Iran), fewer available resources (as is the case in Equatorial Guinea), or high levels of conflict (as is the case in Libya).
These results are broadly similar to our 2016 assessment, with some small improvements in Papua New Guinea, Guinea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Hong Kong. Following the launch of the 2016 Global Slavery Index, the Hong Kong government began to take some steps to recognise that modern slavery is a problem by training front-line police and establishing a specialised police force. The fact that the government is starting to respond is to be commended, however, more remains to be done, including criminalising of modern slavery offences and providing those exploited within Hong Kong with alternative options to deportation.
Responses in certain countries have worsened since 2016. Protection measures for identified victims of modern slavery in Pakistan are limited, with evidence that victims are detained in prison-like shelters where traffickers are able to enter and force inmates into prostitution.61 Services for men, including victims of bonded labour, are also lacking. Progress remains slow in Mauritania despite improvements in 2015 to legislation, such as allowing third parties to bring cases on behalf of slavery victims and establishing special tribunals to investigate slavery crimes.62 There are reports that police and the judiciary are reluctant to implement the new legislation and that several cases of slavery have been reclassified as lesser crimes.63 In Nepal, the government lessened protections for refugees, a cohort highly vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. In Nepal, refugees from Pakistan, Myanmar, Afghanistan, and Sri Lanka, among others, are required to pay prohibitive fines of up to US$5 a day and a penalty of US$500 to obtain an exit permit. These refugees also lacked legal access to education and the right to work.64
Despite these countries taking fewer actions due to limited resources or ongoing conflict, there are wealthier, more stable countries that have taken little relative action when it comes to combatting modern slavery; when correlated against GDP (PPP) per capita Qatar, Singapore, Kuwait, Brunei, Hong Kong, and Saudi Arabia stand out as countries taking relatively limited action despite the size of the problem and resources at their disposal (Figure 4).
Figure 4Correlation between GDP (PPP) per capita and Government Responses Index
Corruption continues to be a serious impediment to any effective response to modern slavery. Almost every country in the Global Slavery Index has criminalised corruption, including bribery of officials, however around 68 countries have conducted limited, if any, investigations into alleged cases of government complicity in modern slavery cases. This ranges from alleged complicity of police and border officials in Madagascar65 in trafficking of Malagasy citizens overseas through to the alleged complicity of high ranking government officials in El Salvador in child sex trafficking cases.66 Diplomatic officials from the Philippines, Bangladesh, Benin, Saudi Arabia, and Eritrea are also alleged to have been complicit in modern slavery cases.
In 2017, the Global Estimates of Modern Slavery produced the first robust measure and typology of state-imposed forced labour. For the Global Slavery Index 2018, we have updated our assessment of state-imposed forced labour to identify those governments that meet these criteria67 by using ILO Committee of Experts comments and observations in combination with recent reports of exploitation at the hands of the government. As a result, 20 countries in 2016 and 2017 showed evidence of forcing their population or sub-populations to work under threat of menace or penalty. This includes concerning allegations of forced labour in privately-run administrative detention centres in the United States68 and Belarus69 and compulsory prison labour in public and private prisons in Russia.70 In Vietnam71 and China72 we found evidence of forced labour in drug rehabilitation centres where inmates are forced to work as part of their recuperation. In Belarus, we found abuse of civic duties in the practice of Subbotniks, which requires government employees to work weekends and donate their earnings to finance government projects under the intimidation or threat of fines by state employers.73 Abuse of civic duties also occurs in Burundi,74 Myanmar,75 Rwanda,76 and in Swaziland, where there is evidence of the continuing practice of Kuhlehla, under which the community is forced to render services or work for the King or local chief.77 Forced labour for economic development occurs in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, where the practice of forcing parts of the population to work in the annual cotton harvest is well documented.78 In Venezuela, Resolution No. 9855 of 19 July 2016 establishes a system of transition labour that is compulsory for all work entities, public and private. The resolution allows the government to transfer workers to entities in the agro-food sector, which requires additional support to increase production. These entities are also able to request additional workers, thus creating a system of forced recruitment to reinforce agro-food production to ensure food security.79 As noted, there is strong evidence, including recent interviews with defectors undertaken by the Walk Free Foundation, of the prevalence of forced labour imposed by the North Korean state.
Abuse of conscription becomes state-imposed forced labour in cases where conscripts are forced to perform work of a non-military nature. We find evidence of this in Colombia,80 Egypt,81 Madagascar,82 Mongolia,83and Mali84 and perhaps most significantly in Eritrea. Under the pretext of “defending the integrity of the state and ensuring its self-sufficiency,”85 the Eritrean government has developed a system of national service in which conscripts are exploited and forced to labour for indefinite periods of time. These forced labourers are required to build infrastructure and work in other projects for economic development that help to prop up the Eritrean government.86 Also, in 2016 there were wide reports of slave markets in Libya, where migrant men, women, and children are sold off to the highest bidder. Alongside this, there are reports of state involvement from the Libyan Coast Guard and the Department for Combating Irregular Migration forcing people who are in migrant detention into forced labour.87
Table 1Government response rating by country
|70 to 79.9||60 to 69.9||50 to 59.9||40 to 49.9||30 to 39.9||20 to 29.9||10 to 19.9||<0 to 9.9|
Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of
Moldova, Republic of
Trinidad and Tobago
Bosnia and Herzegovina
United Arab Emirates
Bolivia, Plurinational State of
Lao People's Democratic Republic
Tanzania, United Republic of
Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of
Korea, Republic of (South Korea)
Papua New Guinea
Congo, Democratic Republic of the
Iran, Islamic Republic of
Central African Republic
Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of (North Korea)
*Indicates where a country could not score above a BBB. These countries have received a negative rating for policies that hinder their response to modern slavery.
** Correction: Table removed due to error