The U.S. Still Has Slaves, It Turns Out

The Walk Free Foundation's Global Index on Slavery, one of the first comprehensive studies on slavery worldwide, has revealed that slavery is far from being stamped out. Slave practices occur in 162 countries, including the United States, and in total holds more than 29 million people captive. In the report, Walk Free measured the predominance of slavery in two ways: Both in terms of percentage of population and in absolute terms. Mauritania, with a "deeply entrenched system of hereditary slavery" has the most slaves per capita, numbering 150,000 among its 3.8 million residents. Haiti and Pakistan follow.

In absolute terms, the 14 million slaves in India make up almost half of the global count. China follows with 2.9 million enslaved, and Pakistan comes in again at third.

The top ten countries on the list comprise 76 percent of the global enslaved population, and include India, China, Pakistan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Russia, Thailand, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Myanmar, and Bangladesh. The U.S. holds the 134th spot on the list. In the nation's 314-million-strong population, almost 60,000 are estimated to be enslaved.

Kevin Bales, Walk Free index researcher and professor at the University of Hull's Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation, said the practice is what it's always been: "The rule of thumb is that ... a person cannot walk away, even into a worse situation, because they literally have no free will and no free movement."

Bales said the problem continues in nations because of a lack of initiative from the governments, who don't want to admit that the practice is going on or even explore the likelihood that it is.

"Most governments don’t dig deeply into slavery for a lot of bad reasons," he said in the report. "There are exceptions, but many governments don’t want to know about people who can’t vote, who are hidden away, and are likely to be illegal anyway."

Globally, Ireland, Iceland, and the UK have the fewest number of slaves.

(Image: Global Slavery Index)