Special Report

Countries With the Most Slaves

4. Uzbekistan
> Est. population in modern slavery: 1.2 million
> Pct. population in modern slavery: 3.97% (2nd highest)
> Human Development Index Score: 0.661 (60th worst)
> GDP per capita 2013: $5,176 (48th lowest)

Roughly 4% of all people in Uzbekistan live in modern slavery, nearly the highest percentage in the world. According to Human Rights Watch, “State-sponsored forced labor of children and adults in the cotton sector continues on a massive scale,” with over one million people forced to pick cotton for two months each year. The Cotton Campaign, an organization dedicated to eradicating forced labor in the Uzbekistani cotton industry, estimates that the number of citizens forced to pick cotton last year was as high as five million. Despite a decline in cotton production in recent years, and a drop in global prices, both the IMF and Asian Development Bank forecast strong growth in the country’s economy in 2014 and 2015.

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3. Pakistan
> Est. population in modern slavery: 2.1 million
> Pct. population in modern slavery: 1.13% (6th highest)
> Human Development Index Score: 0.537 (39th worst)
> GDP per capita 2013: $4,574 (44th lowest)

More than 1% of Pakistan’s population — or an estimated 2,058,200 people — are believed to be living in slavery, both among the highest figures worldwide. The most common form of slavery in Pakistan is debt bondage, a technique frequently used by employers in ungoverned and fringe industries. As workers spiral further into debt, other family members are often forced to help work off the bond. According to the Walk Free Foundation, there are an estimated 10 million child workers in Pakistan. Forced marriages and sex trafficking are also more common in Pakistan than in the vast majority of countries.

2. China
> Est. population in modern slavery: 3.2 million
> Pct. population in modern slavery: 0.24% (59th lowest)
> Human Development Index Score: 0.719 (76th worst)
> GDP per capita 2013: $11,868 (77th lowest)

Roughly 3.2 million people live in modern slavery in China. This high figure may be due, in part, to the country’s scale, as China is the world’s most populous country with more than 1.3 billion residents. However, in the U.S., the world’s third most populous country, just over 60,000 people live in modern slavery, according to the Walk Free Foundation. China’s rapid modernization and urbanization, the foundation adds, “correlates with large flows of domestic migrants moving around the country in search of work.” Last year, roughly 166 million workers in China left their hometowns and worked elsewhere, according to the National Bureau of Statistics of China. That figure alone is larger than the entire U.S. labor force. Such migrant workers, according to the foundation, are vulnerable to modern slavery in a range of industries, including construction and mining.

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1. India
> Est. population in modern slavery: 14.3 million
> Pct. population in modern slavery: 1.14% (5th highest)
> Human Development Index Score: 0.586 (46th worst)
> GDP per capita 2013: $5,450 (50th lowest)

With the second-largest population in the world, it is perhaps not surprising that India has the largest absolute number of residents living in conditions of modern slavery. The 14.3 million modern-day slaves in India, however, is by far the highest figure worldwide, and more than four times the next highest figure. The prevalence of slavery in India, as in other countries located in the Asia-Pacific region, is largely due to the economy’s dependence on low-skilled and cheap labor. Bonded labor is especially prevalent in the country. Forced marriages and commercial sex workers are also relatively common. Like many other countries with large numbers of modern slaves, India is also quite poor. India had a GDP per capita of just $5,450 per capita last year, one of the lower figures worldwide.