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Top 10 economies urged to adopt UK-style anti-slavery laws

1 June 2016

Campaigners have praised the UK’s anti slavery law and urged other countries to adopt similar legislation.

Walk Free Foundation’s Global Slavery Index said the top 10 economies in the world should adopt legislation “at least as strong as the UK Modern Slavery Act 2015”.

The report said the UK’s law had “helped to put the issue of modern slavery in supply chains front and centre for businesses operating in the UK” and top economies needed to set aside resources to ensure businesses “were held to account”.

The Global Slavery Index is an annual report that aims to quantify the number of people in modern slavery around the world. Based on thousands of interviews conducted across the globe, as well as government statistics, the index estimates that there are 45.8m modern slaves worldwide.

This is an increase on previous estimates, which the report attributes to a more accurate measurement of the prevalence of slavery rather than an actual increase.

The UK act obliges large companies to be transparent about efforts to stamp out slavery from their supply chains. So far over 100 UK companies have already released reports doing just that, the report says.

The organisation said that “while these efforts originate from just two countries [the UK and the US], the reach of these laws into international supply chains means their impact is felt well beyond national borders”.

The report also singled out Asia as being particularly vulnerable to high levels of slavery because of the region’s role as a hub of “low-skilled labour for the production stage of global supply chains”, citing incidents of forced labour within the Malaysian electronics industry, debt bondage in the apparel industries of Bangladesh and Vietnam and high profile cases of slavery and abuse on Thai fishing vessels.

The report also ranks governments by their attempts to tackle slavery based on a number of criteria, and puts the UK as having the third best response after the Netherlands and the US respectively.

North Korea, Uzbekistan, Cambodia, India and Qatar are the worst countries for modern slavery respectively in terms of the proportion of their populations in slavery, though India has the largest overall number of slaves.

North Korea has highest number of slaves per capita because of the prevalence of state sanctioned forced labour, said the report. Uzbekistan also features highly because its citizens are forced by their state to work in the national cotton harvest each year.

The report said India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Uzbekistan were home to 58% of the world’s modern slaves.

Top 5 countries for positive government response:

  1. Netherlands
  2. USA
  3. UK 
  4. Sweden
  5. Australia

Top 5 countries for total number of slaves:

  1. India - 18.4m
  2. China - 3.4m
  3. Pakistan - 2.1m
  4. Bangladesh - 1.5m
  5. Uzbekistan - 1.2m
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