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An estimated 35.8 million people are trapped in modern slavery through human trafficking, forced labor, debt bondage, forced or servile marriage or commercial sexual exploitation.
The number is 20 percent higher than previously estimated, according to the Global Slavery Index recently published by the Walk Free Foundation, a global human rights group dedicated to ending modern slavery.
“There is an assumption that slavery is an issue from a bygone era,” said Andrew Forrest, chairman and founder of Walk Free Foundation. “Or that it only exists in countries ravaged by war and poverty. These findings show that modern slavery exists in every country.”
The index shows that Mauritania has the highest proportion of its population in modern slavery, at 4 percent, followed by Uzbekistan at 3.97 percent, Haiti at 2.3 percent, Qatar at 1.36 percent and India at 1.14 percent.
In terms of absolute numbers, India has the highest number of enslaved people — an estimated 14.29 million, followed by China (3.24 million), Pakistan (2.06 million), Uzbekistan (1.2 million) and Russia (1.05 million).
Together these nations account for 61 percent of the world’s modern slavery, or nearly 22 million people.
Forrest said, “The first step in eradicating slavery is to measure it. And with that critical information, we must all come together — governments, businesses and civil society — to finally bring an end to the most severe form of exploitation.”