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Global Slavery Index 2023


According to the recently published ‘Global Slavery Index 2023’ by the Walk Free Foundation, there has been a significant rise in the global prevalence of modern slavery. The report reveals that the number of individuals living in these exploitative conditions has reached 50 million, marking a concerning increase of 25% over the past five years.


GS II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Details
  2. Modern Slavery
  3. Major Findings of Global Slavery Index 2023
  4. Contributing Factors and Challenges
  5. Recommendations


  • The report highlights the notable contribution of G20 nations in intensifying the crisis of modern slavery, primarily through their trade activities and global supply chains.
  • Among the G20 countries, India, China, Russia, Indonesia, Turkey, and the U.S. stand out as having the highest number of individuals subjected to forced labor.

Modern Slavery

  • Definition: Modern slavery includes forced labour, forced marriage, debt bondage, commercial sexual exploitation, human trafficking, slavery-like practices, and the sale and exploitation of children.
  • Consequences: Modern slavery has severe impacts on individuals, communities, and societies.
  • Human Rights Violation: It violates human rights, undermines human dignity, and erodes social cohesion.
  • Economic Impact: It hampers economic development, perpetuates inequality, and fuels corruption.
  • Threat to Security: Modern slavery poses a threat to global security and stability by contributing to conflict, terrorism, and organized crime.

Major Findings of Global Slavery Index 2023

  • Global Estimate: The report estimates that around 50 million people were living in modern slavery in 2021, a significant increase of 10 million since 2016.
  • Prevalence: The prevalence of modern slavery is approximately one in every 160 people worldwide.
  • Country Rankings: The index ranks 160 countries based on their estimated prevalence of modern slavery per 1,000 people.
  • Highest Prevalence: North Korea, Eritrea, and Mauritania are identified as countries with the highest prevalence of modern slavery, where it is widespread and often state-sponsored.
  • Lowest Prevalence: Switzerland, Norway, and Germany are ranked among the countries with the lowest prevalence of modern slavery, indicating strong governance and effective responses to combat it.
  • Asia and the Pacific: This region has the highest number of people in modern slavery, with an estimated 29.3 million individuals affected.
  • India’s Prevalence: India is highlighted with a prevalence score of 8, indicating a significant proportion of the population living in modern slavery per thousand people.

Contributing Factors and Challenges

Contributing Factors:
  • Climate Change and Environmental Factors: The report identifies climate change as a contributing factor to the rise of modern slavery, along with other environmental factors. Displacement and resource scarcity increase vulnerability to exploitation.
  • Armed Conflict: Ongoing armed conflicts create conditions conducive to modern slavery, with armed groups and militias exploiting vulnerable populations.
  • Weak Governance: Countries with weak governance structures and inadequate enforcement of labor laws are more susceptible to modern slavery.
  • Health Emergencies: The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing vulnerabilities, disrupted economies, and worsened working conditions, leading to an increase in modern slavery.
Role of G20 Nations:
  • G20 Contribution: G20 nations account for over half of all people living in modern slavery. Importing products worth billions of dollars from countries with weak worker protection contributes to forced labor conditions.
  • Importation of High-Risk Products: Certain products, such as electronics, textiles, palm oil, and solar panels, are associated with forced labor and human trafficking. G20 countries import significant amounts of these high-risk goods.
Global Supply Chains:
  • Complex Supply Chains: Global supply chains, involving multiple stages from sourcing to transportation, are interconnected with forced labor. Lack of transparency makes it difficult to identify and address instances of modern slavery.
  • High-Risk Products: The importation of textiles and apparel goods by G20 countries exposes them to forced labor risks.
Assessment Methodology:
  • Vulnerability Factors: The index assesses nations’ vulnerability to modern slavery based on factors like political instability, inequality, lack of basic needs, criminal justice mechanisms, internal conflicts, and displacement.
  • Data Sources: The report relies on data from reputable organizations such as the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Walk Free, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
Textiles Industry:
  • Exploitative Conditions: The textiles industry is highlighted as a significant contributor to forced labor. Issues include forced and unpaid work, unsafe conditions, low wages, lack of benefits, and debt bondage.
  • Sumangali Scheme: The report cites the Sumangali scheme in Tamil Nadu as an example of exploitative conditions in spinning mills, particularly affecting women and girls.


Strengthen Measures and Legislation:

  • The Global Slavery Index recommends the implementation of more robust measures and legislation to prevent governments and businesses from engaging in the sourcing of goods and services associated with modern slavery.
  • This includes enacting stricter regulations and enforcing them effectively to hold accountable those involved in exploitative practices.

Integrate Anti-Slavery Measures into Climate Change Sustainability Plans:

  • The report suggests incorporating anti-slavery measures into plans addressing climate change sustainability.
  • This involves recognizing the connection between climate change and modern slavery, and taking proactive steps to address vulnerabilities created by climate change while ensuring that efforts to combat climate change do not contribute to forced labor and exploitation.

Provide Education to Children:

  • It is recommended to prioritize education for children, particularly those in vulnerable communities, as a means to prevent and protect against modern slavery.
  • By ensuring accessible and quality education, children can acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to recognize and avoid exploitative situations.

Tighten Regulations on Child Marriage:

  • The report emphasizes the importance of tightening regulations around child marriage, which is a form of modern slavery affecting numerous girls globally.
  • This includes raising the minimum age of marriage, enforcing penalties for those involved, and providing support for survivors of child marriage.

Ensure Transparency in Value Chains:

  • Promoting transparency and accountability in global value chains is essential to identify and address instances of modern slavery.
  • The report recommends measures such as supply chain audits, certification programs, and public reporting requirements to encourage businesses to take responsibility for their supply chains and eliminate forced labor practices.

-Source: The Hindu

February 2024