There are more slaves today than EVER before in the history of the world

October 10, 2019 by Mark Dunn

In October, there were 615 UK media articles recognised by theLexisNexis Human Trafficking Awareness Index™ data model. That compares with only 439 in September, representing a 40% increase. To better understand what's behind this rise, a quick look at the data through Nexis Analyser shows a significant peak of reporting during Week 42 (October 13, 2014 – October 19, 2014). 

Analyser chart
During this week there were several articles worth revisiting.

Show us proof there aren't slaves in your supply chain, UK gov tells big firms

Followers of our blog will know that we've been tracking the progress of the Modern Slavery Bill (read more here) which is currently progressing through parliament. This article notes that the bill has gone further than any comparable legislation in the world by applying to businesses regardless of their nature or what they supplied. This could include both goods and services. Discussing the move, Karen Bradley, UK Minister for Modern Slavery and Organised Crime, said: "Greater transparency will give customers, campaigners and shareholders the information they need to hold all big business to account while also supporting companies to do the right thing."

Progress of the bill can be viewed at

Labour exploitation on the up

Cases of labour exploitation overtook that of sexual exploitation, according to a report published by the Salvation Army. The report highlighted a 62% increase in human trafficking victims seeking support with more than 1,800 people coming forward since 2011. Forced labour accounted for 42% of cases last year, surpassing sexual exploitation (38%) and domestic servitude (10%). You can read more in our blog – Increased number of human trafficking victims seeking support.

Anne Read, the charity's anti-trafficking response coordinator, said this increase was saddening, but was pleased with the increase in offensive authority action to bring perpetrators to justice and work across sectors to raise awareness.

There are more slaves today than EVER before in the history of the world

The reports on the campaigning group Free The Slaves estimate that around 21-30 million people worldwide are trapped in slavery. This is compared to an estimate of 9-11 million people who landed alive in Europe from Africa during the slave trade.

Slavery today looks different to how it did back in the slave trade. But it operates on the same principle: forced labour for no pay. People kept against their will, trafficked and given no money. Sometimes they are 'paid' in food, so they can stay alive and work harder, and other times they are paid, but this payment is taken back off them at the end of the month, so they have to work. We have previously looked at this in our blog 'Is your car wash supporting modern slavery?'

Slaves also work in industries such as chocolate production (read more in our white paper– Dark Chocolate) and the clothing industry (read more in our white paper– Dressed to Kill). Our 'Dressed to Kill' white paper includes a quote from Kevin Burke, President and CEO, American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA):

"It is more important than ever for brands and retailers to know exactly where the product is at any given time and what materials are being used to create the product. Being able to trace the supply chain is a top priority for the industry."

End notes

The LexisNexis Human Trafficking Awareness Index™ data model highlights emerging trends and patterns of awareness within and across national borders. The Index uses the respected Nexis® service to track and analyse the volume of articles related to human trafficking. Using a licensed collection of almost 6,000 of the most influential news sources from more than 120 countries, the HTA Index highlights emerging trends and patterns of awareness within and across national borders. Activists working to combat human trafficking can use this information to highlight and raise awareness to inform their efforts and gain greater understanding of the news.