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Global Slavery Index 2013: Eastern Partnership Countries Analysis

When we think about slavery, we often look at it as something from the past, something which was abolished a long time ago and has nothing to do with the contemporary world. Still, modern slavery exists and is a global threat that hits both developing and developed counties. In October, 2013, the Global Slavery Index was released  by Walk Free Foundation for the first time in history. The index not only highlights the number of slavery victims, but also provides a plausible explanation of the connection between this data, state’s GDP, and  human rights situation in the country.

According to the survey, the concept ‘slavery’ entails different notions, for example, ‘forced labor’ and ‘human trafficking’. However, its basic definition is the following:

“Slavery is the possession and control of a person in such a way as to significantly deprive that person of his or her individual liberty, with the intent of exploiting that person through their use, management, profit, transfer or disposal. Usually this exercise will be achieved through means such as violence or threats of violence, deception and/or coercion” (Global Slavery Index, 2013) 

Thus, the modern slavery is quite similar to the one that was seemingly abolished a long time ago. Though, with development of human rights’ standards, slavery became completely unacceptable and, as a result, the work of enslaved is hidden in the dark basements of counterfeits production, factories that use child labor, and banana plantations. 

In order to create the ranking of countries according to the level of slavery, three main factors were considered: the prevalence of modern slavery by population (which takes into account the number of slaves in relation to the country’s population and amounts to 95% of the total index); measurement of child marriage (2,5% of total index); and measurement of human trafficking to and out of a country (2,5% of total index) (Global Slavery Index, 2013). Worth mentioning that the child marriage indicator was added to the assessment because the practice of early marriage is considered by Walk Free Foundation to be quite similar to enslavement. What is also important is that the evaluation of slavery prevalence was based not only on secondary sources, but also on primary research that included population surveys. Thus, the index presents a comprehensive picture of situation in different countries. In addition, the report  estimates the risks that states face in the fields of enslavement, human rights abuse, discrimination, and poor legislation.

Overall, the survey evidences that 29.8 million people are enslaved in 162 examined countries today. This amount equals to the whole population of Malasia, a country that is 42nd in the world by number of people. Iceland, Ireland, and the UK demonstrated the lowest level of slavery prevalence, with Iceland having only 22 people enslaved, which is also best absolute result among all examined countries. In contrast, the highest rates of slavery prevalence are in Mauritania, Pakistan, India, Nepal, and on Haiti. In absolute terms, these countries together are responsible for 56% of enslaved people in the world. 

One of the member states of the Eastern Partnership goes right after the top 5 countries with the highest index of slavery. Moldova, with the 6th index rank in the world, has approximately 32 000 enslaved people, which means that every 110th person in this state is a victim of modern slavery. The number of slaves in all countries of Eastern Partnership (Armenia (57 index rank); Azerbaijan (51); Belarus (117); Georgia (50); Moldova (6); Ukraine (86)) amounts to approximately 225 000 people, with Ukraine being responsible for the majority of them (about 113 000) due to its largest population among the mentioned ones. However, Ukraine’s relative rank, 86, (i.e. the number of enslaved people in relation to population and with regard to child marriage and human rights measurement) is second in the region after Belarus. In total, the EaP countries, with exception of Moldova, demonstrate satisfying relative measurement results, while being liable for 7,5% of enslaved people in the world.

slavery table

However, what distinguishes Moldova and countries in the region is that the main movement is happening within the region, as the migration and human trafficking is concentrated within CIS countries. The main destination points of Moldovan trafficked people  are Ukraine and Russia that received 80 percent of country’s  emigrants during 2005-2010 (Global Slavery Index, 2013). In general, Russian Federation is hosting the majority of the EaP countries immigrants (Migration Policy Center, 2013).  Therefore, the regional economic leader  (World Bank, 2013) attracts human traffickers and smugglers that bring cheap labor to the country.

The modern slavery is peculiar in connection with economic situation in a country and the wealthiness of a nation: it seems that the lower GDP in a country, the more enslaved people it has. Thus, Moldova has the lowest GDP per capita among EaP countries (2,037 USD), and 23% of country’s GDP consist of remittances sent home by emigrants working abroad. At the same time, other states with at least 1,000 USD higher GDP are all behind 50th index rank, with Georgia being on the edge. However, the example of EaP countries’ close neighbor – Russia – undermines this line of argument. Having a high GDP per capita (14,037 USD), Russia is still responsible for quite large number of enslaved people (490,000 – 540,000 persons) and is on the 49th place in the world. Also, this state is among 10 countries with the highest number of enslaved people in absolute terms (i.e. without consideration of population and other measurements). Though, it is rather due to the fact that Russia not only traffics people to other countries, but also receives a significant amount of immigrants who are exploited there (Migration Policy Center, 2013). Therefore, a low GDP level can either push people to leave a country and become victims of human trafficking or attract illegal workers for slave jobs. On the other hand, a high level of GDP  in combination with the poor rule of law and human rights abuse can also make a country attractive for traffickers. So, economic development is not an exclusive solution to the problem, the legislation based on human rights standards, and accountable government are also crucial for the issue.

Picture from Global Slavery Index website
Picture illustrates the index of slavery in the EaP countries.  It is taken from Global Slavery Index website

What is significant, Belarus and Russia demonstrate the highest risk of enslavement in the region – higher at least by 6% than in the neighboring countries. This is an odd tendency as Belarus in on the 117 place in the world rank, which is the best result in the region and the closest one to the rankings of very developed countries with the lowest levels of slavery. The high risk of enslavement in this state might be explained by the strong possibility of human rights abuse, the latter being taken into account when calculating this indicator.

In total, the situation in the states of EaP is quite promising, as in absolute terms, they are responsible barely for 7.5% of the world enslaved people. However, in comparison with the EU countries, where 12% of the world slaves can be found (the number refers to 26 member states of the EU, excluding Cyprus and Malta), but the population is almost 7 times bigger than in EaPs, 7,5% does not seem so impressive.  Thus, the issue demands more control and action, both from the international community, the state governments and each individual in particular. The awareness about the problem on an individual level is the first step to its solution on a global one.

All empirical data regarding modern slavery is taken from Global Slavery Index 2013.