With 36 countries and 56 percent of the world’s population, the Asia and the Pacific is the world’s largest region and is broadly diverse in terms of ethnicity, culture, religion, and development. This regional study summarises a longer set of findings, which can be found in the Global Slavery Index: Asia and the Pacific Report.
Prevalence within Asia and the Pacific
On any given day in 2016, an estimated 24.9 million men, women, and children were living in modern slavery in Asia and the Pacific. The region had the second highest prevalence of modern slavery in the world with 6.1 per 1,000 people.
When considering forms of modern slavery, the Asia and Pacific region had a high prevalence of forced labour (4.0 per 1,000 people) compared to other regions. The rate of forced marriage was two victims per 1,000 people.
Over half of all victims of forced labour exploitation (55 percent) were held in debt bondage and this affected male victims more than female victims. The Asia and the Pacific region had the highest number of victims across all forms of modern slavery, accounting for 73 percent of victims of forced sexual exploitation, 68 percent of those forced to work by state authorities, 64 percent of those in forced labour exploitation, and 42 percent of all those in forced marriages.
Within the region, North Korea, Afghanistan, and Pakistan were the countries with the highest prevalence of modern slavery. India, China, and Pakistan had the highest absolute number of people living in modern slavery and accounted for 60 percent of the victims in the region.
These regional figures, while important, should be interpreted cautiously given the gaps and limitations of data in key regions and subregions. For example, only one national survey was conducted in East Asia (Mongolia), and it is not possible to survey in areas of countries that are experiencing profound and current conflict, such as within parts of Pakistan. The lack of data from these regions experiencing conflict means that modern slavery estimates for conflict-affected countries are likely to understate the problem.1
Table 1Estimated prevalence of modern slavery by country, Asia and the Pacific
|Rank||Country||Estimated prevalence (victims per 1,000 population)||Estimated absolute number of victims||Population|
|1||Korea, Democratic People's Republic of (North Korea)**||104.6||2,640,000||25,244,000|
|5||Iran, Islamic Republic of||16.2||1,289,000||79,360,000|
|9||Papua New Guinea||10.3||81,000||7,920,000|
|10||Lao People's Democratic Republic||9.4||62,000||6,664,000|
|23||Korea, Republic of (South Korea)**||1.9||99,000||50,594,000|
|24||Hong Kong, China**||1.4||10,000||7,246,000|
**Substantial gaps in data exist for the Central and East Asia subregions where, with the exception of Mongolia, surveys cannot be conducted for reasons such as (i) survey is only delivered face-to-face, (ii) survey is delivered only in the main language which many migrant workers do not speak, or (iii) national authorities would not, or were unlikely to, consent to the module on modern slavery. Unlike several countries in Western Europe where no surveys were conducted, none of the countries in these subregions were identified as sites of exploitation by respondents in the 48 countries where surveys were implemented.
Vulnerability within Asia and the Pacific
Figure 1Regional average vulnerability scores by dimension, Asia and the Pacific
Overall, the Asia and the Pacific region performed relatively well on the conflict dimension of the vulnerability model. Nonetheless, countries with highest prevalence in the region include North Korea, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. North Korea has well documented state-imposed forced labour, and Afghanistan and Pakistan are both impacted by protracted and ongoing conflict. The Asia and the Pacific region scored relatively poorly on the disenfranchised groups dimension, which perhaps reflects discrimination of individuals on the basis of migration status, race, ethnicity, and/or sexual orientation (Figure 1). A key flash point in the region has been the mass displacement, abductions, sexual violence, and murders committed against the Rohingya population from Myanmar.2 International organisations have already warned of the likelihood of sexual enslavement and human trafficking occurring as a result of this crisis.3 On overall vulnerability, Afghanistan had the highest levels of vulnerability (94 percent) and New Zealand the lowest (two percent).
Table 2Estimated vulnerability to modern slavery by country, Asia and the Pacific
|Country Name||Governance issues||Lack of basic needs||Inequality||Disenfranchised groups||Effects of conflict||Overall weighted average|
|Korea, Democratic People's Republic of|
|Papua New Guinea||64.8||63.3||46.2||9.5||13.3||61.9|
|Korea, Republic of|
|Hong Kong, China||39.3||9.6||24.7||28.4||15.0||24.7|
Government responses within Asia and the Pacific
Asia and the Pacific scored an average CCC rating on government response. While this is the same overall rating as given to the Arab States (also averaging CCC), Asia and the Pacific has shown a trend toward improving the safety nets that help to prevent modern slavery for specific groups or sectors. For example, recognising that migrant workers from this region can become vulnerable, there have been attempts to strengthen pre-departure and on-arrival protection for domestic and construction workers from South Asia working in the Arab States, including the use of bilateral labour agreements that include protections. Certain sectors, such as the Southeast Asian fishing industry, have also been in the spotlight in recent years, and while the Thai and Indonesian governments in particular have taken steps to respond to the issue, more remains to be done to reduce the endemic abuse that occurs in the fishing industry.
Table 3Movements in government response rating for Asia and the Pacific
|Country||2016 Rating||Change in rating||2018 Rating|
Korea, Republic of
Hong Kong, China
Papua New Guinea
Korea, Democratic Republic of
*Countries that scored -1 on a negative indicator could not score above a BBB rating
**Not rated in 2016 Global Slavery Index
***Included for the first time in 2018, therefore a rating is not provided. All data are available via the Global Slavery Index website
Table 4Government response rating, milestone percentage, and total score by country, Asia and the Pacific
|Rating||Country|| Support survivors||Criminal justice||Coordination||Address risk||Supply chains||TOTAL|
|CCC||Lao People's Democratic Republic||38.9||36.7||50.0||40.5||0.0||34.0|
|CC||Korea, Republic of (South Korea)||35.9||27.8||12.5||33.3||0.0||27.6|
|CC||Hong Kong, China||30.2||10.0||12.5||31.0||0.0||21.4|
|C||Papua New Guinea||26.5||30.6||6.3||26.2||0.0||18.9|
|D||Iran, Islamic Republic of||7.4||9.4||0.0||23.8||0.0||6.8|
|D||Korea, Democratic People's Republic of (North Korea)||0.0||-6.7||12.5||4.8||0.0||-5.6|
|No rating||Solomon Islands|