G20 countries are increasing ‘modern slavery,’ report says

The world’s 20 richest countries are forcing people into forced labor, leaving half of the world’s 50 million people in “modern slavery,” according to a report released Wednesday.

The report of the Walk Free foundationa human rights group that focuses on modern slavery, said six members of the Group of 20 countries have the largest number of people in modern slavery – either in forced labor or forced marriage.

India tops the list with 11 million, followed by China with 5.8 million, Russia with 1.9 million, Indonesia with 1.8 million, Turkey with 1.3 million and the United States with 1.1 million.

From the G20 countries, Canada was in fifteenth place for the prevalence of modern slavery, ahead of the UK and behind France and South Africa, according to the foundation’s report. It added that Canada has about 69,000 people who are in forced labor or marriage and seem to have no way out.

Hundreds of people will march in downtown Ottawa on July 25, 2021, calling for Canadian migrant workers to become Canadian immigrants. According to the Walk Free report, Canada ranked fifteenth among the G20 countries for the prevalence of modern slavery. (Krystalle Ramlakhan/CBC)

With the exception of Japan, the countries with the lowest levels of modern slavery are from northern or western Europe, the report said.

But even those countries – including Switzerland, Norway, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Ireland and Finland – still have “thousands of people who continue to be forced to work or marry against their will, despite their economic development. , equality between gender, social welfare and political stability, and strong criminal justice policies,” according to the report.

The rise of modern slavery

Last September, a report by the UN’s International Labor Organization and International Organization for Migration and Walk Free said that 50 million people will be living in “modern slavery” – 28 million in forced labor and 22 million in forced marriage – by the end of 2021. Overall, that was an increase of 10 million people in just five years from the end of 2016.

The Walk Free 2023 report provided the same number of “every day in 2021,” an increase of 10 million from the 2018 index.

“Modern slavery permeates every aspect of our society,” Walk Free founder Grace Forrest said in a statement. “It’s woven into our clothes, it powers our electronics and the seasons of our food,” he said. Realization is a “mirror with power, showing who in each group has and who has not.”

A blond woman smiles and claps her hands.
Grace Forrest, founder of the Walk Free Foundation, who was seen at the awards ceremony in Sydney in November 2018, says modern slavery ‘touches every part of our world.’ (Ryan Pierse/Getty Images/GQ Australia)

“Modern day slavery is hidden in plain sight and is deeply intertwined with life around the world,” the Walk Free report said.

“Every day, people are tricked, coerced, or coerced into doing oppressive things they can’t resist or stop. Every day we buy things or use services they’ve been forced to produce or provide without realizing the hidden human cost.”

The global oil crisis

This is particularly evident in global supply chains, where G20 countries export $468 million worth of goods a year that are considered “at risk” of forced labor, including electronics, clothing, palm oil, solar panels and textiles, the report said. .

It also stated that forced labor occurs in all countries, regardless of their income and “is closely related to the demands of high-income countries,” and the production and movement of goods between countries that create complex chains, “many of which are contaminated by forced labor.”

A group of Pakistani women wearing headscarves gather in the street holding orange signs that read Stop Bonded Labor BLLF.
Pakistani human rights activists take part in the International Women’s Day event in Lahore, Pakistan on March 8, 2020. Last September, a report released by labor organizations and human rights activists said that 50 million people live in modern slavery – 28 million in labor. compelling. and 22 million in forced marriage – by the end of 2021. (KM Chaudhry/The Associated Press)

Australia-based Walk Free said its 172-page report and estimates of global slavery in 160 countries are based on thousands of interviews with survivors collected through a nationally representative household survey and its national risk assessments.

It added that the number of nearly 10 million people forced into labor or marriage reflects a growing crisis – “increasing armed conflicts, environmental degradation, attacks on democracy in many countries, the rollback of women’s rights around the world and economic and social problems.” . about the COVID-19 pandemic.”

These conditions have severely disrupted education and employment, leading to an increase in extreme poverty and forced and insecure migration, “which increase the risk of all forms of modern slavery,” the report said.

Countries with current slavery at the end of 2021 were North Korea, Eritrea, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

Use of children in cocoa production

The report emphasized that coercion occurs in many sectors and at every stage of the supply chain. It also said that the demand for fast fashion and seafood is fueling the forced labor that was so hidden in those industries, where “the worst methods of child labor are used to grow and harvest the cocoa beans that end up in chocolate.”

A tired man holds a child by the arm as he passes cocoa beans to dry.
A police officer arrests a child caught drying cocoa in the sun in the village of Opouyo in the Soubré region of Ivory Coast, on May 7, 2021, during an operation to remove child workers from cocoa plantations, an epidemic that has been condemned by international NGOs for the past 20 years . (Sia Kambou/AFP/Getty Images)

And while the United Kingdom, Australia, the Netherlands, Portugal and the United States were recognized as having strong government responses to slavery, the report said that these changes were smaller and weaker than they should have been.

“Many G20 governments are not doing enough to ensure that modern slavery is not involved in the production of goods exported to their countries and in the sectors of the companies they do business with,” it said.

In 2015, one of the UN goals adopted by world leaders is to end modern slavery, forced labor and human trafficking by the year 2030. But Walk Free said that the biggest increase in the number of people living in modern slavery is what is happening in the government. shows that this goal. it is too far to be possible.

“Walk Free calls on governments around the world to take action to end modern slavery on our beaches and in our walks,” said Forrest, the foundation’s director. “What we need now is political will.”

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