Slavery – more profitable and more widespread than ever

A few years ago I went to a lecture by the Right Honourable The Baroness Cox, of Queensbury.

She spoke about her charitable work in many of the most dangerous areas of the world and in particular about the redeeming of slaves in Sudan.

What struck me at the time was her comment that not only is slavery alive and well in the twenty-first century, but also that there are more human beings in slavery today than at any time in history.

That talk came back to me when I read this report from the Guardian. According to a new report, not only is slavery still with us, but the practice is thriving.

Modern-day slavers can make 25 to 30 times the return on their investment than their counterparts in the 18th and 19th century.

A slavery economist (isn’t it depressing that there even is such a thing!?) at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the Havard Kennedy School, Siddharth Kara, has calculated that the average profit on each slave in the world is just shy of USD 4,000 per year.

And that the comparable figure is nine-times that amount if the victim is in the sex trafficking trade.

Indeed, according to Kara, while 50% of the total profits of modern day slavery are made up by sex trafficking, only 5% of modern slaves are sex trafficking victims.

What is interesting (and terribly sad) is that slavery is lucrative not because there is a paucity of slaves in the world today. Instead, there are twice as many people trapped in some form of slavery today than were traded throughout the entire 350 year history of the transatlantic slave trade!

While roughly 13 million people were captured and sold in the transatlantic trade between the late 15th and 19th centuries, today the UN’s International Labour Organisation believe that at least 21 million are in some form of modern slavery. Continue reading

  • Marcus Roberts has just started a new job teaching contract law at Auckland University.
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