Modern Slavery–The Scope of The Problem

We all know that human trafficking is a bane, that it is a form of modern slavery. What is new according to new research by Siddarth Kara, a slavery economist at Harvard Business School and whose book on this subject is soon to be published, is that its scope is much larger than we normally think of. Kara’s research is based on 5000 interviews with people who have been victims of slavery which makes its finding all the more meaningful.  Modern slavery involves a minimum of 21 million people and, generates profits that are estimated to be as high as $150 billion a year. Each victim brings about $4000 a year and generates about $36,000 for the traffickers, letting us know that once a victim has ceased to bring in income, they are discarded, and more will take their place. Sexual trafficking which is only about 5% is the most lucrative, the rest are involved in a variety of labor including domestic work, the sea food, hospitality and manufacturing industries and the article in the Guardian  mentioned the beauty and fashion industries as well. Two industries which were not mentioned in articles I have previously read. Other uses for the victims are pornography and organ donations.

What is striking is that modern slavery is twice as profitable as the slavery of the past.  Slave owners of today have a return on their investment that is 25 to 30 times higher than those of the past. From the 15th to the 19th century 13 million people were trafficked, usually brought across continents. Today while slavery involves a number of countries, it can be local and it is very possible that we may encounter a trafficked person without knowing it. What is a concern is that the numbers of conflicts in the world, their ensuing instability and economic crises create new pools of victims and makes it easy for traffickers to jump in.  Another scary conclusion is that Human trafficking is  not only global  it is on par with the arms and drug trades.

Kevin Bale, a slavery expert at the University of Nottingham in the UK, says that it would be possible to eradicate slavery within 2 decades, that it would cost about $23 billion, but that the political will and determination to make that come about is lacking. I wasn’t able to find out yet how he proposes this would happen, but will share it when I do.  Yet the mere idea that someone with knowledge of the problem’s scope thinks it can be eradicated is both hopeful and important.  It means it is a realistic goal.