1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Nearly 36 million 'trapped in slavery'

November 17, 2014

The second annual Global Slavery Index (GSI) has shown that 35.8 million people are subject to modern day slavery - some 20 percent more worldwide than initially thought. The highest total of slaves was in India.

A symbolic image of a man hauling bricks in India
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

The results of a survey published on Monday by anti-slavery campaign group Walk Free estimates that some 35.8 million people are currently trapped in modern day slavery.

In its second annual report, the2014 Global Slavery Index (GSI) said that due to new methods, some 20 percent more people are enslaved around the world that previously thought.

"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 of the Australian-based Walk Free Foundation.


Forced into in a life of cotton picking, cannabis growing, prostitution, fighting wars or cleaning up after the wealthy account for just some of the definitions of modern slavery across the 167 countries which were covered in the GSI report.

Debt bondage, forced marriage and the sale or exploitation of children, as well as human trafficking are also included in the foundation's interpretation of modern slavery.

The report also showed that modern slavery contributed to the production of at least 12 goods from 58 countries.

Social norm

According to the Index, the biggest offender, with the highest proportion of its population enslaved, remains the West African nation of Mauritania. Despite Mauritania's anti-slavery legislation, it is rarely enforced and the slavery of black Moors by Berber Arabs is an entrenched part of society.

Following Mauritania in second place was Uzbekistan where, every autumn, the government forces over one million people, including children, to harvest cotton.

The highest number of total slaves was found in India where an estimated 14.29 million people live a life of slavery. The Index said, however, that India had recently taken important steps to combat the problem by strengthening its criminal justice framework through legislative amendments and increasing the number of its anti-human-trafficking police units.

'Appalling situations'

At the opposite end of the scale, the GSI report also showed that the countries doing the most to combat the problem were the Netherlands, Sweden, the US, Australia, Switzerland, Ireland, Norway, the UK, Georgia, and Austria.

Despite being at the bottom of the list, Europe still has 566,000 people involved in forms of modern slavery. For example, people are trafficked into Ireland to grow cannabis, or forced into begging in France.

"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," said Forrest.

ksb/se (AFP, 2014 Global Slavery Index)