Modern Slavery: How Many Slaves are there Today?

Female's head tied with rope.

The history of slaves in the world dates back to the cradle of civilization, in the most ancient societies such as the Greek, Roman, Aztec, Egyptian and Mesopotamian era where empires were constructed through the labor of captured slaves.

From the 17th till the 19th century, all practices of slavery through deception, kidnapping, and force escalated through the transatlantic slave trade and other tributary slave markets. A most notable open transaction of slaves in public squares was known as chattel slavery. Did slavery ever get push-back, and when did slavery end in the world?

Civil rights societies and anti-slavery communities began a long stringent campaign in the 1760s to put an end to slavery. It wasn’t until 1833 that an act was passed for the abolishment of slavery. This act became effective in the United States in 1865.

According to history, Mauritania was the last country to obliterate all acts of slavery in 1981, yet the effects of modern slavery are experienced in many countries all over the world. In spite of legal acts against slavery, there are millions of slave-like conditions condoned across the globe, so the controversy remains- is slavery legal in any country today?

Slavery and Human Trafficking Statistics 2019

What is slavery? The term refers to the unlawful abduction of humans for the purpose of unpaid labor. Historians have estimated a total of 13 million captured and sold slaves from the 15th to the 19th centuries. This estimation is only a fraction of modern-day slavery. Slavery in Africa today is one of the highest in the world, and the victims are largely women and children.

The question does slavery still exist is validated with an affirmation as the footprints of slavery is found in all continents. The exploitation of employers and the dehumanization of the less privileged due to debts incurred or by forced marriages are evidences of slavery in the 21 century.

The UN’s International Labour Organization (ILO), in conjunction with the Walk Free Foundation, have published figures on slaves in Europe and other countries. The report is inclusive of what countries still have slavery in the world.

How Many Slaves are There Today?

An aggregate of human trafficking statistics 2019 showed that 40.3 million people are living in one form of slavery or the other- this figure is more significant than trice the figures during the great transatlantic slave trade.

71% of slaves are reported to be females comprising of women and girls, while children make up 25% of the slaves worldwide.

Legs in slave chains.

Do Countries Still Have Slavery or Slave-Like Conditions)?

According to the Global Slavery Index, slavery facts state that slavery is highly prevalent in Africa, the Pacific region, and Asia. In these constituencies, over 40 million people live in slave-like conditions. Some of the countries with the highest predominance of slaves include:

  • North Korea
  • Pakistan
  • Iran
  • Cambodia
  • Burundi
  • Afghanistan
  • South Sudan
  • Mauritania
  • Eritrea
  • The central African Republic

These slave-like conditions include forced marriages, sex exploitations, debt bondage, and other forms. Debt slavery is particularly prominent in Asia. About 1.5 million individuals are reported as slaves in developed countries in the UK.

Why Does Slavery Still Happen Today?

The complexities behind modern-day slavery in many countries are numerous. Slavery in India may be due to various factors, including poverty in some regions. Migration of people from one region to the other in search of a means of living may lead to high vulnerability, leaving such individuals open to exploitation for various industries such as agriculture, mining, supply chain, sex and all other forms of trafficking.

In another perspective, slavery is a huge business and generates high profits in billions of dollars annually for dealers. The value of a slave is estimated at $8000 to $36,000 in yearly profits for traders.

Some of the most populous countries in the world inevitably have high numbers of victims of slavery. This is due to inadequate resources, an increase in the rate of unemployment, violence, terrorism, and crime. These countries include:

  • Pakistan
  • Philippines
  • Nigeria
  • China
  • North Korea
  • India
  • Russia
  • Congo
  • Iran
  • and others.

What Can We Do to Stop Slavery?

According to experts of the Anti-Slavery International, the modern-day slavery is widespread and often clandestine, making these acts difficult to track. However, there are ways to identify persons that may be victims of slavery. The things to look out for include: lack of freedom, a vulnerable, scared look, a withdrawn personality with a high sense of insecurity, physical body marks, no documents for identification, and others. The most helpful way to stop slavery is to report such cases to local authorities, the police, or an anti-slavery organization.