U.S. among 17 countries that practice forced labor, a form of ‘modern slavery,’ report finds


The 13th Amendment abolished slavery in the United States in 1865, with one exception: forced labor in prisons.

It reads, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall exist within the United States, except for the punishment of the crime for which the party has been duly convicted.”

Nearly 160 years later, the United States is one of only 17 countries that still enforce mandatory work. According to a report Australian human rights organization Walk Free, in collaboration with the UN’s International Labor Organization and the International Organization for Migration, released this week.

This category includes state-sanctioned forced labor in armies, farms, factories, and prisons. In many US prisons, inmates are forced to work without minimum wage and other legal protections.

The types of state-imposed labor vary—from prisons, state and federal, public and private, as in the United States, to the widespread use of work camps and conscription in highly repressive countries such as North Korea and Eritrea. Up to misuse.

Report, Global Census of Modern Slavery Based on 2021 Data, Evidence of forced labor by the state was found In Belarus, Brazil, China, Egypt, Libya, Mali, Mongolia, Myanmar, Poland, Russia, Rwanda, Turkmenistan, Vietnam and Zimbabwe.

Under international law, governments can require people to work under certain conditions, such as conscription and emergencies. But “a state oversteps these limits when it punishes citizens for expressing or practicing political views, or for the purpose of economic development, or by racial, ethnic, social, or religious discrimination.” It compels.” The report summarizes the standards.

Worldwide, government authorities forced nearly 3.9 million people to work in 2021 — out of an estimated 50 million people enslaved in involuntary labor or marriage, according to the report.

Jacqueline Larson, WalkFree’s deputy director and head of global research, said the estimates are likely to be low, because “modern slavery” is often hidden and taboo. Reports A survey of 160 countries. Some, such as Yemen and Syria, are too dangerous for full access. The analysis uses the term “modern slavery” to include legal concepts that “prevent conditions of exploitation that a person may face through threats, violence, coercion, fraud, and/or abuse of power.” cannot deny or leave.”

The index gives a conservative estimate that 1 in 150 people worldwide are enslaved. For women and girls, the number rises to 1 in 130. The index found the highest rates of slavery in Afghanistan, Eritrea, Kuwait, Mauritania, North Korea, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

More than half of all slaves live in the G-20 countries, a bloc comprising the world’s richest economies, the report said. According to the report, G-20 countries import about $468 billion a year in products that are at risk of being made with slave labor, including electronics, clothing and solar panels.

Although these are estimates, the data are meant to highlight how modern-day slavery through debt slavery, human trafficking, forced marriage and involuntary labor remains in every region of the world, Larson said.

Within those broader categories, state-imposed labor is “a form of modern slavery that can be solved relatively quickly because it’s about state policies,” he said.

The report highlights three broad types of forced labor by the state. Abuse of detainees – in Belarus, Brazil, China, Libya, North Korea, Poland, Russia, Turkmenistan, the US, Vietnam and Zimbabwe – accounted for more than half of the reports analysed.

In countries including Eritrea, Egypt, Mali and Mongolia, about a quarter of the cases related to recruitment abuse. About 17 percent are forced to work for the economic benefit of the state, such as forced cotton picking in Turkmenistan, or cases of ethnic minorities being forced to work for the military or other authorities in Myanmar.

The slavery index does not rank countries according to the prevalence of state forced labor because there is a lack of sufficient data, Larson said, although North Korea and Eritrea, which have the highest levels of slavery in the overall index, do not. Above are, possibly, the worst offenders.

Eritrea has compulsory and indefinite conscription for all men between the ages of 18 and 40. 2015 Report of the United Nations Commission of Inquiry“The indefinite duration of national service, its appalling conditions – including arbitrary detention, torture, sexual violence, forced labour, absence of leave and ridiculous pay … make national service an institution where slavery-like practices are.”

In North Korea, an estimated 1 in 10 people are enslaved, most of whom are forced to work by the state, according to the report and other UN findings.

America has the highest incarceration rate in the world. A 2022 report by the American Civil Liberties Union found that nearly two-thirds of prisoners, or about 800,000 people, were forced to work in public and private institutions. Many faced punishment for refusing. Nationally, inmates are paid an average hourly wage of 52 cents an hour, and in some states nothing, while prisons generate billions of dollars in goods and services, according to the ACLU.

“The roots of modern prison labor can be found in the ratification of the exception clause at the end of the Civil War, which disproportionately encouraged the criminalization and re-enslavement of black people during the Jim Crow era, which “The effects persist to this day,” the ACLU found in a 2022 report.

Proponents of mandatory prison labor in the United States argue that the practice is constitutional, defrays prison costs and helps rehabilitate inmates into the workforce.

Of the 17 countries accused of forcing people to work, the United States tops the index’s list of countries moving toward reform. For the United States, those efforts are complicated by the country’s decentralized system of federal, state, and privately run prisons. I 2022 midterm electionsAlabama, Oregon, Tennessee and Vermont voted to ban prison labor in their state constitutions, joining a handful of others.

There are court cases challenging involuntary prison labor. Continued in many states. Oh 2020 lawsuit The state of Arizona is accused by the NAACP of sending inmates to private prisons to “generate revenue and profits for the financial benefit of corporate owners, shareholders and executive management.”

Globally, the practice of “modern slavery” is not abating. Since Walk Free’s last assessment in 2018, an estimated 10 million additional people worldwide have been forced into slavery.

The 2021 report notes that this increase is “increasing and more complex conflicts, widespread environmental degradation, climate-induced displacement, the global backsliding of women’s rights, and the economic and social impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.” has taken place against the background of social influence”.

“It’s a problem of our own making,” Larson said. “So it’s entirely within our control.”



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