Eritrea has been named second among the nations with the highest prevalence of modern slavery in the world. This is according to the 2023 Global Slavery Index, which notes a “worsening” situation globally since its last survey five years earlier.
The report which was published on Wednesday disclosed that an estimated 50 million people were “living in situations of modern slavery” in 2021, an increase of 10 million from 2016 when the problem was last measured.
The figure is inclusive of some 28 million people in forced labour and 22 million living in a forced marriage.
According to the investigation, the situation is worsening “against a backdrop of increasing and more complex armed conflicts, widespread environmental degradation” and effects from the coronavirus pandemic, among other factors, the investigation said.
Compiled by the human rights charity Walk Free, the report defines modern slavery as encompassing “forced labour, forced or servile marriage, debt bondage, forced commercial sexual exploitation, human trafficking, slavery-like practices, and the sale and exploitation of children”.
The core principle of slavery entails “the systematic removal of a person’s freedom” — from the right to accept or refuse labour to the liberty to determine if, when and whom to marry.
Generally, and by this benchmark, reclusive and authoritarian North Korea has the highest prevalence of modern slavery (104.6 per 1,000 population), according to the report.
Eritrea comes second at 90.3 with Mauritania, which in 1981 became the last country in the world to make hereditary slavery illegal coming third at 32.
The report details that the 10 countries with the highest prevalence of modern slavery have some common characteristics, including “limited protections for civil liberties and human rights”.
Many of the nations are in “volatile” regions experiencing conflict or political instability, or are home to a large population of “vulnerable people” such as refugees or migrant workers.