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20 of the world’s richest economies contribute heavily to modern slavery: NPR

20 of the world's richest economies contribute heavily to modern slavery: NPR

A worker carries a Chinese national flag to join it with the flags of other participating countries at the opening of the G-20 foreign ministers’ meeting in New Delhi, India, Thursday, March 2, 2023.

Manish Swarup/AP


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Manish Swarup/AP


A worker carries a Chinese national flag to join it with the flags of other participating countries at the opening of the G-20 foreign ministers’ meeting in New Delhi, India, Thursday, March 2, 2023.

Manish Swarup/AP

The world’s 20 richest economies accounted for around half of the people worldwide living in “modern slavery”, according to a new report.

The report released this week by Walk Free, an international human rights group, found that countries belonging to the Group of 20 major economies helped fuel forced labor through global supply chains and state-imposed forced labor. Between the 20 countries, they imported $468 billion worth of products possibly made from forced labor, of which the United States accounted for nearly $170 billion, the report said.

“At its core, modern slavery is a manifestation of extreme inequality,” Walk Free’s founder, Grace Forrest, said in a statement. “It is a mirror held to power that reflects who in a given society has it and who has not. Nowhere is this paradox more present than in our global economy through transnational supply chains.”

The G-20 includes Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union.

Imported products deemed to be “at risk” of being affected by modern slavery were electronics, clothing, palm oil, solar panels and textiles.

Last year, Australia’s Walk Free Foundation joined with various UN agencies and released a report saying that by 2021, the number of people enslaved around the world had grown to 50 million.

The 10 countries with the highest prevalence of modern slavery are North Korea, Eritrea, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Tajikistan, the United Arab Emirates, Russia, Afghanistan and Kuwait, the report said.

These countries have things in common, such as limited protection of human and civil rights, political instability or authoritarianism, Walk Free said.

The increase can also be attributed to climate change, as more people migrate due to intense weather events, leaving them more vulnerable and susceptible to exploitation, the report said.

“With 50 million people living in modern slavery today, this Global Slavery Index calls for immediate action. Walk Free calls on governments around the world to step up their efforts to end modern slavery on their shores and in their supply chains. We know the scale of the issue and have the knowledge and the necessary politics to act. What we need now is political will.”

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