NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – North Korea and Eritrea have the world's highest rates of modern slavery, said a global poll on Thursday highlighting that conflict and state repression are the main causes of a crime by the estimated More than 40 million people worldwide are affected.
The Central African nation of Burundi also has a high prevalence of slavery, according to the Global Slavery Index 2018, published by the human rights organization Walk Free Foundation.
"Each of these three countries has state-subsidized forced labor where their government lets their own people work for them," said Fiona David, research director of the Minderoo Foundation, who led the data collection.
According to an estimate by the Walk Free Foundation and the United Nations International Labor Organization (ILO), more than 40 million people around the world were enslaved in 201
India was home to the largest total of an estimated 8 million slaves among its 1.3 billion inhabitants, according to Walk Frees calculation of 2018.
Two years ago, the index showed 18.3 million people in modern slavery in India , The difference lies in methodological changes, says Walk Free, and reflects ways in which people are counted who were enslaved on a particular day or over a longer period of time.
China, Pakistan, North Korea and Nigeria rounded off the five largest nations with the largest number of slaves, accounting for about 60 percent of victims worldwide, according to Walk Free.
But North Korea had enslaved the highest percentage of its population, with one in 10 people being forced into modern slavery and "the clear majority forced to work through the state," the index said.
Researchers interviewed 50 North Korean defectors, who spoke of long hours and inhuman conditions in forced unpaid work for adults and children in agriculture, construction and road construction.
"This index makes us visible," said Yeon-Mi Park, a defector, who spoke at a press conference at United Nations headquarters.
"These people were simply born in the wrong place and they are punished for that," she said, describing that she was taken to China, where she was sold as a child bride.
Another defector, Jang Jin-sung, said North Koreans would not consider themselves slaves.
"They were indoctrinated all their lives to think that everything they do for the state is a good thing," he said.
In Eritrea, the report states that the government is "a repressive regime that abuses its defense system in order to force its citizens into forced labor for decades."
Burundi's government also imposed forced labor, Walk Free said, while human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, had implicated their security forces in murder and enforced disappearance.
Other countries with the highest rates of slavery were the Central African Republic, Afghanistan, South Sudan and Pakistan.
"Most of these countries are characterized by conflict, with breakdowns in the rule of law, displacement and a lack of physical security," the report said.
With more than nine million people living in slavery – nearly eight in every 1,000 people – Africa had the highest rate of enslavement of a region, according to the report.
Researchers also warned that consumers in affluent countries could buy billions of dollars worth of products made with slave labor, including computers, mobile phones and clothing.
"Modern slavery is a First World problem," said Andrew Forrest, co-founder of Walk Free in Australia. "We are the consumers, we can fix it," he added.
Slavery is probably more widespread than research suggests, activists and experts say. The report found gaps in Arab data and a lack of information on organ trafficking and the recruitment of children by armed groups.
Report by Ellen Wulfhorst, Editing by Jared Ferrie and Kieran Guilbert Ask the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the non-profit arm of Thomson Reuters, to cover humanitarian news, women's rights, human trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org