Slavery might sound like a thing of the past, but it actually continues to exist in the world in many different forms. A new report estimates there are currently 30 million modern day slaves around the world.
The majority of today’s slaves live in Africa and South Asia, but there are also substantial numbers in Brazil and the former Soviet Union, according to the Walk Free Foundation.
Walk Free is an international NGO whose goal is to end global slavery by conducting research on the issue and mobilizing policy makers.
In October, they launched the first ever Global Slavery Index, and produced the following map.
The #1 country on this index — i.e. the country where slavery is most prevalent — is the West African nation of Mauritania. There are still people who are born into slavery there, and work in farms or as domestic servants. Around 4 percent of that country's overall population are believed to be slaves, and much of it originates from inter-tribal wars and raids, much like slavery in ancient Greek or Roman times.
Haiti is listed as the second place where slavery is most prevalent. In that country, it originates from a system of child labor called "Restavek" in which impoverished families from the countryside send their children to work for wealthier families in cities in the hopes that they are provided with an education and supplied their basic needs.
Often though, host families abuse the children and force them to work as their servants while offering nothing in return. According to Walk Free, around 2 percent of Haiti’s population lives in slave-like conditions.
Another modern form of slavery is debt bondage, a practice where adults and children work for free for someone for months or years in order to pay debts. But often the victims enter a vicious cycle of debt and work that is almost impossible for them to get out of. This form is more common in India and Pakistan, which rank third and fourth in the global slavery index.
In the U.S. and Europe undocumented immigrants sometimes end up conducting slave labor for unscrupulous individuals who have paid for their journey to their new country. According to the Walk Free foundation there are around 60,000 modern day slaves in the U.S.
The report also notes that women and children are often tricked into immigrating to Europe or the U.S. only to become sex slaves upon their arrival.
Manuel Rueda is a correspondent for Fusion, covering Mexico and South America. He travels from donkey festivals, to salsa clubs to steamy places with cartel activity.