University of Hull involved in research revealing there are an estimated 45.8m people enslaved around the world

31st May 2016

An estimated 45.8 million people are enslaved across the world, according to the latest Global Slavery Index, which is produced by the Walk Free Foundation, in Australia, and the University of Hull.

The estimate has been increased from 35.8m, in 2014 because of more enhanced research methods being developed, according to lead author Professor Kevin Bales, the Deputy Director of the University Of Hull’s Wilberforce Institute for Slavery and Emancipation (WISE).

Professor Bales said that more than 42,000 interviews had been conducted in 53 languages, covering 44 per cent of global population, with the help of international research consultants Gallup.

Professor Bales said:

This is the most accurate up-to-date analysis of slavery in over 150 years. If you are going to try and solve a problem you need a metric to understand it. When a crime is invisible it is hard to deal with. Making the crime of slavery visible means we can now begin to explore the different causes in different places and to build appropriate policy responses to these.

Government response

The Global Slavery Index also tracks government actions and responses to modern slavery. Of the 161 assessed, 124 countries have criminalised human trafficking in line with the UN Trafficking Protocol and 96 have developed national action plans to coordinate government response. The governments leading the charge against modern slavery are The Netherlands, the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Australia, Portugal, Croatia, Spain, Belgium and Norway.

Some significant progress has been made by many governments since the publication of the 2014 report. The UK Government introduced the Modern Slavery Act 2015, with the help of expert advice from the University of Hull. The UK has also appointed an Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, Mr Kevin Hyland. President Barack Obama closed a loophole in US law to now ban the importation of goods made with forced or child labour.

Countries such as Croatia, Montenegro, Brazil, Macedonia, the Philippines, Georgia, Moldova, Albania and Jamaica are taking positive steps to respond to modern slavery relative to their wealth.

While India has more people enslaved than any other country, it has made significant progress in introducing measures to tackle the problem. It has criminalised trafficking, slavery, forced labour, child prostitution and forced marriage. The Indian government is currently tightening legislation against human trafficking, with tougher punishment for repeat offenders. It will offer victims protection and recovery support.


Call to action

Mr Andrew Forrest, Chairman and Founder of Walk Free Foundation, has called on Governments to follow the example of the UK and tackle slavery.

He said:

We call on governments of the top 10 economies of the world to enact laws, at least as strong as the UK Modern Slavery Act 2015, with a budget and capability to ensure organisations are held to account for modern slavery in their supply chains, and to empower independent oversight. Leaders of the world’s major economies must bring the power of business to this issue, by requiring a focus on supply chain transparency.
I believe in the critical role of leaders in government, business and civil society. Through our responsible use of power, strength of conviction, determination and collective will, we all can lead the world to end slavery.

The Global Slavery Index report can be found at

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