Region Highlights

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
2 Afghanistan 22.2 749,000 33,736,000
3 Pakistan 16.8 3,186,000 189,381,000
4 Cambodia 16.8 261,000 15,518,000
5 Iran, Islamic Republic of 16.2 1,289,000 79,360,000
6 Mongolia 12.3 37,000 2,977,000
7 Myanmar 11.0 575,000 52,404,000
8 Brunei Darussalam 10.9 5,000 418,000
9 Papua New Guinea 10.3 81,000 7,920,000
10 Lao People’s Democratic Republic 9.4 62,000 6,664,000
11 Thailand 8.9 610,000 68,658,000
12 Philippines 7.7 784,000 101,716,000
13 Timor-Leste 7.7 10,000 1,241,000
14 Malaysia 6.9 212,000 30,723,000
15 India 6.1 7,989,000 1,309,054,000
16 Nepal 6.0 171,000 28,656,000
17 Indonesia 4.7 1,220,000 258,162,000
18 Viet Nam 4.5 421,000 93,572,000
19 Bangladesh 3.7 592,000 161,201,000
20 Singapore** 3.4 19,000 5,535,000
21 China** 2.8 3,864,000 1,397,029,000
22 Sri Lanka 2.1 44,000 20,714,000
23 Korea, Republic of (South Korea)** 1.9 99,000 50,594,000
24 Hong Kong, China** 1.4 10,000 7,246,000
25 Australia 0.6 15,000 23,800,000
26 New Zealand 0.6 3,000 4,615,000
27 Taiwan, China** 0.5 12,000 23,486,000
28 Japan** 0.3 37,000 127,975,000

**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

Regional 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
Afghanistan 81.0 41.3 64.7 46.0 92.6 93.9
Pakistan 56.8 36.2 45.9 55.3 92.8 74.1
Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of
(North Korea)
87.6 52.0 30.3 32.4 12.3 73.3
Myanmar 58.1 43.8 26.1 46.0 70.2 65.9
Cambodia 66.3 38.5 41.6 56.7 14.8 63.5
Iran 74.6 25.5 35.8 37.3 39.5 63.3
Papua New Guinea 64.8 63.3 46.2 9.5 13.3 61.9
Philippines 50.5 35.3 45.7 36.4 69.3 60.2
Laos 70.7 35.1 26.4 41.2 13.9 57.5
India 46.2 29.8 32.4 41.1 80.0 55.5
Timor-Leste 58.4 41.9 37.2 41.2 3.9 52.8
Thailand 50.9 21.8 35.3 45.1 51.9 51.1
China 61.4 20.5 26.9 32.4 44.2 50.6
Indonesia 43.7 38.0 35.8 53.3 32.2 50.5
Bangladesh 54.1 38.4 25.7 20.9 45.3 50.0
Brunei Darussalam 53.5 30.9 31.7 41.2 18.2 47.2
Nepal 52.0 35.6 32.2 8.7 34.7 44.1
Mongolia 40.9 36.8 35.1 47.1 18.1 43.5
Sri Lanka 44.1 27.0 33.5 34.9 35.9 42.5
Vietnam 53.6 23.2 28.1 32.5 18.5 41.5
Malaysia 36.2 28.4 39.6 41.2 27.8 39.2
Korea, Republic of
(South Korea)
33.9 29.4 25.7 33.8 13.4 29.8
Hong Kong, China 39.3 9.6 24.7 28.4 15.0 24.7
Taiwan, China 24.5 24.7 40.6 21.1 1.4 20.3
Japan 21.5 13.1 15.5 31.9 17.8 13.8
Singapore 30.8 16.3 5.0 18.7 9.0 13.4
Australia 11.9 15.7 20.7 12.0 13.0 4.3
New Zealand 12.2 18.4 16.2 7.0 7.0 1.9

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

Australia

BBB

BBB

New Zealand

BB

BB

Philippines

BB

BB

Indonesia

B

BB

Thailand

B

B

Vietnam

B

B

India

B

B

Bangladesh

B

B

Nepal

B

CCC

Malaysia

CCC

CCC

Taiwan

CCC

CCC

Cambodia

CCC

CCC

Sri Lanka

B

CCC

Japan

CCC

CCC

Laos

CCC

CCC

Singapore

CC

CCC

Myanmar

CCC

CCC

Mongolia

CCC

CCC

Timor-Leste

CC

CC

Korea, Republic of

CC

CC

China

CCC

CC

Hong Kong, China

C

CC

Brunei

C

CC

Papua New Guinea

C

C

Pakistan

CCC

C

Iran

D

D

Korea, Democratic Republic of

D

D

Fiji***

Kiribati***

Nauru***

Palau***

Samoa***

Solomon Islands***

Tonga***

Tuvalu***

Vanuatu***

*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
BBB Australia 69.6 75.0 56.3 69.0 0.0 63.8
BB New Zealand 53.7 47.8 43.8 95.2 0.0 57.6
BB Philippines 51.5 69.4 50.0 69.0 0.0 55.8
BB Indonesia 47.8 60.0 50.0 61.9 0.0 50.8
B Thailand 46.3 51.7 56.3 73.8 0.0 48.9
B Vietnam 62.2 45.0 62.5 66.7 0.0 48.1
B India 46.3 53.3 56.3 45.2 0.0 45.7
B Bangladesh 43.1 63.3 68.8 42.9 0.0 44.4
CCC Nepal 35.2 41.7 50.0 59.5 0.0 38.7
CCC Malaysia 40.0 53.9 56.3 38.1 0.0 38.4
CCC Taiwan, China 46.9 38.7 25.0 42.9 8.3 38.2
CCC Cambodia 40.4 46.7 43.8 33.3 0.0 37.6
CCC Sri Lanka 26.7 42.8 25.0 78.6 0.0 37.4
CCC Japan 43.5 44.4 37.5 45.2 0.0 36.6
CCC Lao People’s Democratic Republic 38.9 36.7 50.0 40.5 0.0 34.0
CCC Singapore 40.0 22.2 31.3 42.9 0.0 32.8
CCC Myanmar 58.0 18.3 43.8 42.9 0.0 32.4
CCC Mongolia 27.8 33.3 31.3 54.8 0.0 30.7
CC Timor-Leste 33.1 16.7 25.0 42.9 0.0 28.5
CC Korea, Republic of (South Korea) 35.9 27.8 12.5 33.3 0.0 27.6
CC China 23.5 29.4 43.8 52.4 18.3 27.4
CC Hong Kong, China 30.2 10.0 12.5 31.0 0.0 21.4
CC Brunei Darussalam 17.8 19.4 0.0 42.9 0.0 20.6
C Papua New Guinea 26.5 30.6 6.3 26.2 0.0 18.9
C Pakistan 21.5 15.6 12.5 40.5 0.0 18.6
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 Fiji            
No rating Kiribati            
No rating Nauru            
No rating Palau            
No rating Samoa            
No rating Solomon Islands            
No rating Tonga            
No rating Tuvalu            
No rating Vanuatu4            

Footnotes

1International Labour Organization (ILO) & Walk Free Foundation 2017, Methodology: Global Estimates of Modern Slavery: Forced Labour and Forced Marriage, ILO, p.78. Available from: http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—ed_norm/—ipec/documents/publication/wcms_586127.pdf [31 January 2018]
2Amnesty International 2018, Myanmar: Fresh evidence of ongoing ethnic cleansing as military starves, abducts and robs Rohingya, 7 February. Available from: https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2018/02/myanmar-fresh-evidence-of-ongoing-ethnic-cleansing-as-military-starves-abducts-robs-rohingya/. [1 March 2018].
3“Given the pervasive sexual violence that has marked this and previous military campaigns against the Rohingya in northern Rakhine State, the abduction of women and young girls raises serious concerns of rape and sexual slavery.” Amnesty International 2018, Myanmar: Fresh evidence of ongoing ethnic cleansing as military starves, abducts and robs Rohingya, 7 February. Available from: https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2018/02/myanmar-fresh-evidence-of-ongoing-ethnic-cleansing-as-military-starves-abducts-robs-rohingya/. [1 March 2018].  See also: International Organization for Migration 2017, UN Migration Agency Warns of Trafficking, Labour Exploitation, Sexual Abuse of Rohingya Refugees, Press Release 14 November. Available from: https://www.iom.int/news/un-migration-agency-warns-trafficking-labour-exploitation-sexual-abuse-rohingya-refugees. [1 March 2018].
4Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Palau, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu were included in our assessment of government responses in 2018, however as this was the first year we collected data for these countries we did not include their ratings in the GSI. Data collected can be found in the database at https://www.globalslaveryindex.org/data/.