The report, by the Global Slavery Index, also estimates 40.3 million globally, with most victims living in Asia, North Korea topping the list.
WASHINGTON(TIP): More than 400,000 people could be living in “modern slavery” in the US, a condition of servitude broadly defined in a new study as forced and state-imposed labor, sexual servitude and forced marriage.
The Global Slavery Index, published on Thursday, July 19, by Walk Free Foundation, describes modern slavery as a complex and often hidden crime that crosses borders, sectors and jurisdictions. The US number, the study estimates, is almost one hundredth of the estimated 40.3 million global total number of people it defines as being enslaved.
“The United States is one of the most advanced countries in the world yet has more than 400,000 modern slaves working under forced labor conditions,” said the group’s founder, Andrew Forrest, in a news release.
“This is a truly staggering statistic and demonstrates just how substantial this issue is globally. This is only possible through a tolerance of exploitation,” Forrest added.
The report estimates most victims of modern slavery live in Asia. North Korea has the highest prevalence of modern slavery globally, with one in 10 of the population, or 2.6 million people, victims of modern slavery.
A third, or 15 million, of victims of modern slavery enter through forced marriage, an issue that disproportionately affects women and girls. “Overall, the cultural practice of forced marriage places women at greater risk of exploitation, and the potential subjection to a life of servitude, financial bondage and sexual exploitation that comes with modern slavery,” the report said.
The report also argues the US figures are in themselves deceptive because the US exacerbates the global slavery problem by importing products, including laptops, computers, mobile phones, garments, fish, cocoa and timber, at risk of being produced through forced labor.
The group recommends making forced marriage illegal, creating a minimum marriage age of 18, a national database of trafficking and forced labor cases, and working to improve supply-chain transparency to help bring the US numbers down.
It estimates China is by far the largest source of at-risk goods, with the United States importing $122bn of electronics and clothing from the country. Vietnam was the second largest source with $11.2bn, and India third with $3.8bn.
“There is no quick solution to this and governments, businesses, and consumers alike must wake up to the fact that they must change their behavior if they wish to tackle this abhorrent issue, both at home and abroad,” Forrest wrote.
The Walk Free Foundation, a global human rights organization with a mission to end modern slavery in a generation, was founded by Australian philanthropists, Andrew and Nicola Forrest.
Some have criticized the methodology behind the Index, which extrapolates its figures based on various risk factors and a “Vulnerability Model.”
Walk Free notes that, because of the changes to its methodology, the national slavery figures are not comparable with previous editions of the Global Slavery Index.
It says: “As such, while comparability from previous years is lost, the changes are justified by the need to continually improve our knowledge base.”