7,000 Jamaicans are modern-day slaves – report

Business editor

Sunday, July 22, 2018

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As Jamaica prepares to celebrate Emancipation Day on August 1, there are some 7,000 people living in modern-day slavery on the island according to the Global Slavery Index published on Thursday.

Although slavery and the four-year apprenticeship period officially ended 180 years ago, 2.57 people out of every 1,000 living in Jamaica are estimated to be living as slaves, the report said.

Globally, the report estimates that some 40.3 million people are living in modern-day slavery – with 71 per cent of those females and 29 per cent males. Some 24.9 million of the total are believed to be in forced labour, with another 15.4 million in forced marriages.

With little-known forced marriages in Jamaica, the country has a prevelance index rank of 112 out of 167 countries for its level of slavery.

That puts it well behind Haiti, the first country to overturn slavery some 215 years ago. According to the report, Haiti has some 55,000 people living as slaves out of a population of 10.7 million, giving it a rating of 62 out of 167. Its rate of slavery is 5.55 people per 1,000 – the second highest in the Americas, just behind Venezuela at 161 with a rate of 5.58 per 1,000.

In fact, Jamaica has a smaller proportion of modern slaves than any of the other Caribbean countries listed, including: Barbados at 2.75 per 1,000. Trinidad at 2.96, Guyana at 2.59, the Dominican Republic at 4.03 and Cuba at 3.77. Suriname, a member of Caricom neighbouring Guyana, scored lower than Jamaica with a rate of 2.3 per 1,000.

Meanwhile the United Kingdom, which ended slavery (though not indentured labour) across its empire in 1834, has a slightly lower level of slavery than Jamaica, according to the report. An estimated 136,000 people live in modern-day slavery in the former colonial power, the report says. That gives it a prevelance index rate of 132 and and an overall rate of 2.06 slaves per 1,000 people.

Singapore with a population of 5.5 million people scores worse than Jamaica with an estimated 19,000 modern-day slaves, giving it a rate of 3.43 and ranking it 97th in the survey.

Slavery is also alive and well in Africa where every country has modern-day slavery including Nigeria with a rate of 7.65 per 1,000, Ghana with a rate of 4.84, South Africa with a rate of 2.8 – but worst of all is Eritrea, ranked second in the world, with a rate of 93.03 modern-day slaves per 1,000 people.

Slavery also exists across Europe, with the worst offender being Turkmenistan with a rate of 11.2, followed by Belarus (10.9) and Macedonia (8.7). Greece, a member of the European Union, was fourth highest in Europe with a rate of 7.91 per 1,000, ranking it 27th in the survey.

The country with the highest rate of modern slavery is North Korea, the report says, with some 2.62 million modern-day slaves in its population of about 25 million – giving it a rate of 104.56 per 1,000 people.

The United States ranks low on its proportion of slaves, with 1.26 per 1,000 people, placing it at 158th out of 167 countries. But given its population of 320 million, the report estimates that some 403,000 are living as modern-day slaves.

Its northen neighbour Canada ranks even better, 166th out of 167 countries with a rate of 0.48 per 1,000 people. That translates to an estimated 17,000 modern-day slaves, or 10,000 more than Jamaica.

The country with the lowest level of modern slavery is Japan with a rate of 0.3 per 1,000 people.

The report also looks into the types of products exported to the main industrialised countries (G20) that are most at risk of being a part of the modern-day slavery value chain. The top five include: laptops, computers and mobile phones at top place followed by garments, fish, cocoa and sugar cane.

In the context of the report, modern slavery covers a set of specific legal concepts including forced labour, debt bondage, forced marriage, slavery and slavery-like practices, and human trafficking.

“Essentially, it refers to situations of exploitation that a person cannot refuse or leave because of threats, violence, coercion, deception, and/or abuse of power. For example, their passport might be taken away if they are in a foreign country, they might experience or be threatened with violence, or their family might be threatened,” the report states.

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