Modern-day slavery remains ubiquitous across the world, with an estimated 35.8 million people trapped under forced servitude or ownership of some kind, according to a report released Monday by the Australian anti-slavery NGO Walk Free Foundation.
The estimate marks a significant increase since the organization's 2013 report's count of 29.8 million. "We believe that the majority of this increase is due to the improved accuracy and precision of our measures," states The Global Slavery Index 2014 (pdf).
"There is an assumption that slavery is an issue from a bygone era. Or that it only exists in countries ravaged by war and poverty. These findings show that modern slavery exists in every country."
—Andrew Forrest, Walk Free Foundation.
"From children denied an education by being forced to work or marry early, to men unable to leave their work because of crushing debts they owe to recruitment agents, to women and girls exploited as unpaid, abused domestic workers, modern slavery has many faces and comes in many different forms," the report states. "It still exists today, in every country – modern slavery affects us all."
According to the report's definition, "Modern slavery involves one person possessing or controlling another person in such as a way as to significantly deprive that person of their individual liberty, with the intention of exploiting that person through their use, management, profit, transfer or disposal."
The ten countries where slavery is believed to be most prevalent are: Mauritania, Uzbekistan, Haiti, Qatar, India, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Syria and the Central African Republic. India has the highest absolute number of slaves, estimated at 14.29 million.
Slavery was found in all 167 countries examined in the report, including the United States, where 60,100 people are estimated to be living in slavery.
In the Americas, slavery often takes the form of forced labor. "Working conditions are deplorable and include bonded labor, physical confinement, no rest days, lack of potable water, deception about terms of work, withholding of wages, and unlawful overtime performed under threat of deportation," the study states. "Such practices are evident across the Americas, including in the United States of America."
"There is an assumption that slavery is an issue from a bygone era. Or that it only exists in countries ravaged by war and poverty," said Andrew Forrest, Chairman and Founder of Walk Free Foundation. "These findings show that modern slavery exists in every country. We are all responsible for the most appalling situations where modern slavery exists and the desperate misery it brings upon our fellow human beings."