AN estimated 24.9 million men, women and children were living in modern slavery in Asia and the Pacific in 2016, newly compiled data has shown.
According to the 2018 Global Slavery Index released by the Australia-based anti-slavery organisation Walk Free Foundation last week, some 40.3 million people were living in modern slavery across the globe during 2016 – 71 percent of whom were female.
While the Asia Pacific constitutes 56 percent of the world’s population, it is home to an estimated 62 percent of the global slave population, showed the report.
“This report demonstrates, straight from the mouths of some of the 40.3 million victims of modern slavery, that these deplorable crimes continue happening out of sight, and at a tragic scale,” said Australian philanthropist Andrew Forrest in a press statement.
“We cannot sit back while millions of women, girls, men and boys around the world are having their lives destroyed and their potential extinguished by criminals seeking a quick profit.”
The report showed North Korea had by far the highest prevalence of modern slavery as part of “well documented state-imposed forced labour”, while India, China and Pakistan had the highest absolute number of people enslaved – accounting for 60 percent of victims in the region.
The government of North Korea was also named as doing the least to combat slavery, it found.
There were 104.6 victims per 1000 population in North Korea, followed by 16.8 in Cambodia, 11 in Burma (Myanmar), 10.9 in Brunei, 9.4 in Laos, 8.9 in Thailand, 7.7 in the Philippines, and 6.9 in Malaysia.
Southeast Asia’s fishing industry has seen some progress in terms of governmental response due to media scrutiny of widespread slavery and labour abuses.
“While the Thai and Indonesian governments in particular have taken steps to respond to the issue,” wrote the Slavery Index’s authors, “more remains to be done to reduce the endemic abuse that occurs in the fishing industry.”
Forced labour was the most common form of slavery at 4 in every 1000 people across the Asia Pacific, while two in every 1000 were living in forced marriages. A whopping 66 percent of people in forced labour globally are in Asia and the Pacific.
The region also had the highest number of victims across a range of forms of slavery, accounting for 73 percent of victims of forced sexual exploitation, 68 percent of those forced to work by state authorities and 42 percent of all those in forced marriages worldwide.
According to the report, “a key flash point in the region has been the mass displacement, abductions, sexual violence, and murders committed against the Rohingya population.”
“International organisations have already warned that the likelihood of sexual enslavement and human trafficking occurring as a result of this crisis,” it added.
Walk Free Foundation’s executive director of research Fiona David said that the 2018 Index showed modern slavery is far more common in developed countries such as the United States than previously thought.
“The prevalence of modern slavery is driven through conflict and oppression, but it’s also derived in more developed countries from consumer demand for the latest goods at the best possible price,” she said.
“The common element is that every country must act.”