Almost 30 million people worldwide are living as slaves, according to a new report by the Walk Free Foundation, which released its inaugural Global Slavery Index on Thursday.
Modern-day slavery includes slavery, forced labour, human trafficking, and any situation where a person is not in control of his or her own destiny. India is by far the biggest offender with approximately 14 million people in slavery, followed by China with 2.9 million, and Pakistan with 2 million.
"India's challenges are immense," reads the report. "India exhibits the full spectrum of different forms of modern slavery, from severe forms of inter-generational bonded labor across various industries to the worst forms of child labor, commercial sexual exploitation, and forced and servile marriage."
The top 10 countries listed by the index account for 76% of global slavery. These include: India, China, Pakistan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Russian Federation, Thailand, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Myanmar, and Bangladesh.
When listed by prevalence, Mauritania claimed the unsavoury top spot as up to 20% of its population is enslaved. Hereditary slavery remains a reality for many people in Mauritania and other West African states, and people can even be "given away as gifts".
The U.S. ranked 134th, worse than South Korea (137), Hong Kong (141), Costa Rica (146), and even Cuba (149). Given the traumatic history of slavery in the U.S., it is reassuring to note that the Global Slavery Index cites the U.S. as "low risk." However, it is a major target for human trafficking due to its "demand for cheap labour and relatively porous land borders."
The lowest ranked countries were the UK, Ireland, and Iceland, which tied at 160th place. However, the report warns that these countries should not consider themselves blameless: "This does not mean these countries are slavery free. On the contrary, it is estimated that there are between 4,200 – 4,600 people in modern slavery in the United Kingdom alone."
The Walk Free Foundation was created by the Australian mining tycoon Andrew Forrest, and plans to update the Global Slavery Index annually in an attempt to shame governments into action.