Special Report

Countries With the Most Slaves

7. Democratic Republic of the Congo
> Est. population in modern slavery: 762,900
> Pct. population in modern slavery: 1.13% (6th highest)
> Human Development Index Score: 0.338 (2nd worst)
> GDP per capita 2013: $655 (3rd lowest)

Despite a strong economy, characterized by 8% GDP growth in 2013, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is still among the least developed countries in the world. The DRC was the site of a massively bloody war involving numerous African nations between 1998 and 2003, which cost millions of lives. Various armed conflicts continue today as well. The Walk Free Foundation notes that “Decades of political instability and a violent civil war have left many citizens of the Democratic Republic of the Congo vulnerable to modern slavery.” Another factor is the country’s rich resource base, as slaves are known to be used in the mining of commodities such as diamonds, copper, and gold. The government’s response to slavery has also been inadequate, earning a C on this year’s Global Slavery Index. According to Transparency International, the DRC was one of the worst-scoring nations on the Corruption Perceptions Index 2013.

6. Nigeria
> Est. population in modern slavery: 834,200
> Pct. population in modern slavery: 0.48% (52nd highest)
> Human Development Index Score: 0.504 (32nd worst)
> GDP per capita 2013: $5,746 (51st lowest)

Nigeria does not suffer from war and civil unrest to the same degree as many other African nations. Yet, the country still struggles with modern slavery. Roughly one in every 200 residents are estimated to be living in slavery, one of the higher rates worldwide. Despite the problem, the Nigerian government is better than most at attempting to address the issue. Nigeria was one of only eight Sub-Saharan countries with a clear budget — $11.9 million — for funding responses to human trafficking. This was also the largest budget regionally, which likely helped Nigeria’s government receive the best index rating among African countries for its response to slavery. Corruption is still a major issue, however. Nigeria’s oil industry, including the state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, has been under near constant scrutiny for shady practices and stolen goods.

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5. Russia
> Est. population in modern slavery: 1.0 million
> Pct. population in modern slavery: 0.73% (32nd highest)
> Human Development Index Score: 0.778 (57th best)
> GDP per capita 2013: $24,298 (46th highest)

Russia is one of just five countries in the world with more than one million people living as modern slaves, according to the Walk Free Foundation. These include laborers born in countries formerly part of the Soviet Union, as well as women and children who are trafficked as sex workers. The foundation is also quite critical of the Russian government’s response to the problem, and notes that rampant corruption in law enforcement increases the vulnerability of Russians living in modern slavery. Russia’s GDP per capita, at $24,298 last year, was higher than that of any other country with a similarly high number of modern slaves. However, declining oil prices and economic sanctions could curb Russia’s economic growth.

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