Where Does Slavery Exist?

Saeeda, a deaf Pakistani woman, was ten years old when she left Pakistan for Manchester, England for a job as a domestic worker. For nearly a decade, she was abused, raped, and beaten by her employers, a Pakistani couple. Now in her 20s, Saeeda told the courts that she was confined to a cellar and forced to work as a slave.[1]

Slavery is banned and illegal in every country. But nearly 21 million men, women and children remain enslaved today and the 2012 U.S. Department of Labor’s List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor reports modern slavery — adults or minors incapable of consent — in 74 countries.[2] Remember, these numbers do not include prostitutes or domestic workers because they do not produce finished goods. A complete Department of Labor list appears here.

Where are the slaves? About 11.7 million, or 56%, of modern slaves are in Asian countries. Africa accounts for 3.7 million slaves and another 1.8 million are enslaved in Latin America and the Caribbean. Western, developed economies harbor 1.5 million slaves. 1.6 million slaves toil in Central, Southeast and Eastern Europe (non-European Union) and in the Commonwealth of Independent States (Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.) In the Middle East, there are approximately 600,000 slaves.[3]

Where Does Slavery Exist

photo by NASA/Goddard Photo

The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and Africa have the greatest concentration of modern slaves: 4.2 and 4.0 per 1,000 inhabitants, respectively. In Western, developed economies and in the European Union the prevalence is the lowest: 1.5 per 1,000 people. In contrast to Asian nations, European, non-EU, and CIS countries have higher ratios per 1,000 people because of their relatively small populations.

Modern slavery is also a consequence of migration. There are 9.1 million people enslaved due to internal or international movement, with a substantial percentage of those moving across borders trafficked into sexual servitude. The 11.8 million modern slaves who remain in their birthplaces, or who were already residents in a location prior to enslavement, are most often enslaved in agricultural or industrial settings.[4]

Modern slavery and human trafficking are not simply far-flung phenomena, someone else’s problem while our own backyards remain clean. Perpetrators and victims of these crimes reside in cities and towns across the United States. In addition, more slaves are annually trafficked into the United States than were in all of 17th century America.[5] According to the U.S. State Department, the U.S. remains a source and destination for enslaved men, women and children. Every year, between 14.5-17.5 thousand people are trafficked into the U.S.[6]Here, victims are subjected to forced labor, debt bondage, involuntary servitude and sex trafficking. Trafficking occurs in legal and illegal industries including agriculture (in 2004, leading abolitionist Kevin Bales estimated 1 in 10 slaves in America was a bonded farm laborer[7]), manufacturing, domestic services, janitorial services, health and elder care, massage parlors, street prostitution, hospitality and hotel services.[8]

Victims come from a range of residential statuses, from native-born U.S. citizens to people filling labor needs while in possession of temporary visas to individuals in the United States without legal status. The top countries of origin for foreign victims in 2011 were Mexico, The Philippines, Thailand, Guatemala, Honduras, and India.[9]

 


[1] 2012 U.S. State Department Trafficking in Missing Persons Report, page 18.

[2] 2012 U.S. Department of Labor’s List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor, page 13.

[3] ILO 2012 Global Estimate of Forced Labour Executive Summary, page 2.

[4] ILO 2012 Global Estimate of Forced Labour Executive Summary, page 3.

[5] A Crime So Monstrous, page 265.

[6] U.S. State Department Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2006.

[7] Hidden Slaves: Forced Labor in the United States, page 265.

[8] U.S. State Department Trafficking in Persons Report, September 2012, page 359.

[9] U.S. State Department Trafficking in Persons Report, September 2012, page 360.