Nearly 46 million people across the globe are living in modern slavery, a system of exploitation that governments and businesses must do more to end, according to the Walk Free Foundation.
The Australia-based rights group on Tuesday released its global slavery index, which tracks the number of people stuck in “situations of exploitation that a person cannot refuse or leave because of threats, violence, coercion, abuse of power or deception.” The instances include forced labor in farming, fishing and manufacturing, commercial sex work and forced marriage.
“Governments need to look more closely at illicit labor recruitment, crack down on the illegal companies that provide conduit in which people end up in slavery, and penalize the companies and individuals that are using bonded labor, either directly or in their supply chains,” the group said in a statement. “At the same time, it is important that we tackle the conditions that drive labor migration by creating opportunities within home countries.”
The survey, which was based on 42,000 interviews conducted in 25 countries, found that Asian countries were home to nearly 60 percent of the world’s modern slaves. India was the country with the highest number, 18.3 million, while North Korea had the highest proportion, with 4.3 percent of the population thought to be enslaved, the survey found. Vikas Swarup, a spokesman for India’s Foreign Ministry, declined to comment on the report.
The nearly 46 million people estimated to be enslaved worldwide is an increase of 28 percent from the group’s last survey, though it says that is likely due to better data collection and research methods. The group said progress had been made since it’s last report, with all countries in Asia except North Korea now having laws criminalizing some forms of modern slavery.
“I believe in the critical role of leaders in government, business and civil society,” Andrew Forrest, the billionaire chairman of the Walk Free Foundation, said in a statement. Forrest is the largest shareholder of iron ore producer Fortescue Metals Group. “Businesses that don’t actively look for forced labor within their supply chains are standing on a burning platform,” Forrest said.