Special Report

Countries With the Most Slaves

10. Thailand
> Est. population in modern slavery: 475,300
> Pct. population in modern slavery: 0.71% (44th highest)
> Human Development Index Score: 0.722 (78th worst)
> GDP per capita 2013: $14,136 (80th highest)

According to the Global Slavery Index, there were an estimated 475,300 Thai residents living in modern slavery, the 10th highest worldwide. The U.S., by contrast, just over roughly 60,000 modern slaves last year. Like many other countries in the Asia-Pacific region — where nearly two-thirds of the world’s modern slaves live — Thailand’s economy relies heavily on low-skilled work, especially in fishing, and garment industries. In addition, migrant workers from neighboring countries make up a sizable portion of Thailand’s workforce and are perhaps even more likely to enter into forced labor arrangements or be sexually exploited. While the Thai government has made efforts to address the problem of modern slavery, many of its measures have been poorly implemented or become bogged down by high levels of corruption.

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9. Bangladesh
> Est. population in modern slavery: 680,900
> Pct. population in modern slavery: 0.44% (59th highest)
> Human Development Index Score: 0.558 (42nd worst)
> GDP per capita 2013: $3,167 (37th lowest)

According to the Walk Free Foundation, the collapse of an eight-story garment factory last year, which killed more than 1,000 workers, “brought to light the reality of labour exploitation in the sector including the underpayment of wages, excessive work hours, and unsafe facilities” in Bangladesh’s garment industry. While it is unknown what proportion of low-skilled Bangladeshi garment workers are actually living in modern slavery, the incident highlighted the plight of poorly treated citizens working in under-regulated and dangerous environments. Bangladesh’s garment industry has grown rapidly in recent years, and the bulk of the output is destined for Western countries. Corruption likely exacerbates the issue, as it does in other countries where high numbers of residents are living in modern slavery. Transparency International rated Bangladesh worse than a majority of countries for corruption.

8. Indonesia
> Est. population in modern slavery: 714,100
> Pct. population in modern slavery: 0.29% (66th lowest)
> Human Development Index Score: 0.684 (66th worst)
> GDP per capita 2013: $9,635 (69th lowest)

Indonesia is one of the world’s most populous countries, with nearly 250 million citizens. It is also home to an estimated 714,100 in modern slavery, more than in most nations. According to the Walk Free Foundation, “Modern slavery in Indonesia is characterized by forced labour in domestic work, agriculture, and the fishing sector.” In particular, the report identifies the production of palm oil as problematic, stating it is often produced by workers who are trapped on plantations. Palm oil is used in many products Americans consume, from lipstick to ice cream. Indonesia, like many developing countries, has experienced relatively rapid growth, as well as high inflation, relative to highly developed countries.

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