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29 Million People Live in Slavery, According to New Index

Alden Wicker

In its inaugural Index the Walk Free Foundation revealed that over 29 million people are living in conditions of modern slavery today.

The interactive map, which will be published annually moving forward, breaks down by country the prevalence of slavery, which includes human trafficking, forced labor, slavery, debt bondage, forced marriage, and the sale and exploitation of children.

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The Global Slavery Index 2013 website

Because the Index does not break down the numbers by type of slavery, we can’t say how many of these slaves have a relationship to the garment industry. But, with the definition of modern slavery including any situation where a person is “used and controlled and exploited by another person for profit, sex, or the thrill of domination,” and reports surfacing of slavery-like conditions and child labor at some factories, the alarming truth is that much of the clothing Americans wear could have been assembled by a person who is, in fact, a modern slave.

China and Bangladesh, two countries that provide labor for a large proportion of the fashion industry, are both ranked in the top ten for number of people living as slaves, pointing to conditions that allow factory owners to conscript children and vulnerable women into forced labor.

“The laws are in place, but the tools and resources and the political will are lacking. And since hidden slaves can’t be counted it is easy to pretend they don’t exist. The Index aims to change that,” said Professor Kevin Bales, the lead researcher on the Index.

The Global Slavery Index 2013.

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