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World’s Low-Cost Economy Built on the Backs of 46 Million Modern Day Slaves

Close to 46 million men, women, and children are enslaved across the world, according to a harrowing new report from the Australia-based Walk Free Foundation.Many of them, the analysis notes, are in fact ensnared providing “the low-cost labor that produces consumer goods for markets in Western Europe, Japan, North America, and Australia.”

The organization’s 2016 Global Slavery Index—based on 42,000 interviews conducted in 53 languages, covering 44 percent of global population—found there to be 28 percent more “modern slaves” than previously estimated.

According to the report (pdf), “modern slavery refers to situations of exploitation that a person cannot refuse or leave because of threats, violence, coercion, abuse of power or deception, with treatment akin to a farm animal.” The classification includes victims of human trafficking, forced labor, debt bondage, sex trafficking, forced marriage, and other such exploitation.

More than half (58 percent) of those who are enslaved are in five countries: India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Uzbekistan. In the latter country, for example, during the annual cotton harvest, one million citizens were subjected to state-sanctioned forced labor in 2015.

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