Kuwait ranked 46th in the 2014 Global Slavery Index with 0.709 percent of its population in modern slavery — 23,900 out of 3,368,572. Walk Free Foundation, a human rights group based in Australia, released its second annual slavery index recently.
The index provides an estimate of the number of people living in modern slavery in each of 167 countries ranked from 1 to 167 with ‘1’ as most severely concentrated modern slavery situation and ‘167’ as least severely concentrated modern slavery problem.
Kuwait is one of five countries whose governments should be doing more to address the problem, considering their wealth. Other countries which need to take this step include Qatar, Hong Kong, Brunei and Singapore.
According to the index; Kuwait, along with Hong Kong and Saudi Arabia, have either a strong or middle range economy, but have a particularly poor response to modern slavery. The ‘kafala’ system, which ties an employee to an employer, has facilitated to significant abuses of domestic and construction workers in the Middle East.
As for the regional ranking of countries, Kuwait is sixth in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) while Qatar is first regionally and fourth internationally with 1.356 percent of the population in modern slavery.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is third in the region and 12th globally with 1.057 percent, Oman is fifth regionally and 45th internationally with 0.709 percent, Bahrain is seventh in the region and 47th in the world with 0.709 percent, and Saudi Arabia is 17th regionally and 101st internationally with 0.292 percent.
Almost 36 million people are living as slaves across the globe with an index on Monday listing Mauritania, Uzbekistan, Haiti, Qatar and India as the nations where modern-day slavery is most prevalent.
The Walk Free Foundation, an Australian-based human rights group, estimated in its inaugural slavery index last year that 29.8 million people were born into servitude, trafficked for sex work, trapped in debt bondage or exploited for forced labour.
Releasing its second annual index, Walk Free increased its estimate of the number of slaves to 35.8 million, saying this was due to better data collection and slavery being uncovered in areas where it had not been found previously. For the second year, the index of 167 countries found India had by far the greatest number of slaves. Up to 14.3 million people in its population of 1.25 billion were victims of slavery, ranging from prostitution to bonded labour.
Mauritania was again the country where slavery was most prevalent by head of population while Qatar, host of the 2022 World Cup, rose up the rank from 96th place to be listed as the fourth worst country by percentage of the population.
“From children denied an education by being forced to work or marry early, to men unable to leave their work because of crushing debts they owe to recruitment agents, to women and girls exploited as unpaid, abused domestic workers, modern slavery has many faces,” the report said.
“It still exists today, in every country — modern slavery affects us all.” The index defines slavery as the control or possession of people in such a way as to deprive them of their freedom with the intention of exploiting them for profit or sex, usually through violence, coercion or deception. The definition includes indentured servitude, forced marriage and the abduction of children to serve in wars.
Hereditary slavery is deeply entrenched in the West African country of Mauritania, where four percent of the population of 3.9 million is estimated to be enslaved, the report said. After Mauritania, slavery was most prevalent in Uzbekistan, where citizens are forced to pick cotton every year to meet state-imposed cotton quotas, and Haiti, where the practice of sending poor children to stay with richer acquaintances or relatives routinely leads to abuse and forced labour, it said.
Ranked fourth was Qatar. The tiny Gulf state relies heavily on migrants to build its mega-projects including soccer stadiums for the 2022 World Cup. It has come under scrutiny by rights groups over its treatment of migrant workers, most from Asia, who come to toil on construction sites, oil projects or work as domestic help. The next highest prevalence rates were found in India, Pakistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Syria and Central African Republic.
The index showed that 10 countries alone account for 71 percent of the world’s slaves. After India, China has the most with 3.2 million, then Pakistan (2.1 million), Uzbekistan (1.2 million), Russia (1.05 million), Nigeria (834,200), Democratic Republic of Congo (762,900), Indonesia (714,100), Bangladesh (680,900) and Thailand (475,300).
For the first time, the index rated governments on their response to slavery. It found the Netherlands, followed by Sweden, the United States, Australia, Switzerland, Ireland, Norway, Britain, Georgia and Austria had the strongest response