Walk Free's Global Slavery Index estimates there were 403,000 modern day slaves in the USA (in 2018), but that puts the USA in fairly good position per capita [in the Americas] with only 1.3 slaves per 1,000 population; Venezuela supposedly is the worst in that per capita regard with 5.6 and Canada is the best with 0.5.

They also rate governments' response to slavery, and the USA gets the most superlative rating of BBB* in the Americas, which puts it in own category, far above e.g. Canada (which only gets BB, same as Brazil or Mexico).

So, given this superlative rating given to the US government, I'm rather sure Walk Free is not talking about prison conditions in the USA. So who are the prototypical modern-day slaves in the USA, according to Walk Free?

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    Forced marriages, as you yourself pointed out in now deleted comments. I am sure it is explained somewhere on FGSI Web site.
    – markvs
    Oct 15 at 20:44
  • @markvs: I know that's included in their def of slavery, but I'm not seeing a breakdown of that by country, nor a breakdown of what a country's slaves consist of, even in their rough bins of labor vs forced marriage slavery. And endslaverynow.org/learn/slavery-today/forced-marriage says there were 3,000 cases of forced marriage in the US in 3 years. So that seems to come fairly short of the GSI estimate if it's mainly that.
    – Fizz
    Oct 15 at 20:46
  • +1 but I wonder if "fairly good position" is the best way to say it?
    – uhoh
    Oct 15 at 22:49
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    I don’t think this question is on topic here, but I might be wrong. Oct 16 at 14:34
  • Is one possible reason the USA was given a better rating, even though the actual per-capita is worse, is that the at-risk-of-slavery per-capita is much higher (the 50 million international migrants mentioned below)?
    – JonTheMon
    Oct 18 at 15:33

While the report could be more transparent on a country by country, and category by category basis, the narrative materials in its regional report for the Americas (see pages 16-17) strongly implies that undocumented migrant workers, especially from Latin America, especially children, and especially those in agriculture and domestic service work (and probably also trafficked girls who are forced to work as sex workers), make up the bulk of the people whom it considers to be living in modern slavery in the United States. The tobacco growing industry is singled out as culpable.

It does not appear to consider people in forced marriages (which a comment notes are on the order of the low thousands or tens of thousands in the U.S.), or people performing involuntary servitude while incarcerated, to be a major share of their total in the United States.

One of the reasons for the lack of breakdown by type within each country is that its method is to use a formula based upon survey data and some other factors that is adjusted statistically, that only has a final total as an end product. One has to get into the details of the survey results by Gallup to really get insight into exactly what is driving its total number, and I could not easily locate that raw data.


In the 2018 Americas Report by the Global Slavery Index, they write under the section titled Child Labour in United States: Abuse Persists Despite Recent Efforts:

In the America's region, there are several inherently vulnerable populations that comprise known victims of modern slavery, such as seasonal and temporary agricultural workers, international migrants, and undocumented migrants ...


These migrant populations to the United States are especially vulnerable due to recent border control measures ...


In 2017, the United States held the largest number of international migrants (50 million) which is 19% of the world's total international migrant population. Many of these are seasonal and temporary agricultiral workers who also face hazardous and exploutative working conditions.

Often, children of undocumented seasonal and temporary workers, who may or may not be US citizens themselves, are particularly vulnerable and involved in harazardous or exploitative labour. This is exacerbated because existing labour laws amd protections for children are difficult to enforce if the populations are not easy to find and when the exact nature of the work conditions of minors is difficult to ascertain, such as tobacco farms in the US.

They go on to expand:

There are an estimated 1.3 million child labourers in tobacco fields in 2011. Human Rights Watch has found that hundreds of thousands of children work in agriculture in the United States, often forgoing educational opportunities and requirements, fair wage payments and labour protections and imperil their health and lives whilst facing potential exploutation in modern slavery as they continue to work under exploitative conditions.

Men, women and children who cultivate tobacco experience stoop labour, harassment in work activities, abject poverty, staggering debt, exposure to nicotine and pesticides and poor health.

They quote Jacqueline Castillo a former child labourer, who says:

You can barely spot us, because we are really small and short ... There's still a lot of 7, 12 & 13 year olds working. I don't think it is ever going to change.

The extracts above show where modern slavery in the USA is most prevalent. They also note that from a survey of 2,000 domestic workers, 19% reported that they had been bullied, threatened or verbally abused in the previous year.

Your evaluation of the USA score on the index as BBB* as being 'superlative' very much depends upon the methodology of the Global Index. This as they note is a 'point' calculation (a point in time) rather than a 'flow' calculation (a historical assessment). Had it been the latter, Canada would have far outscored the USA given that slavery became illegal there in 1793, whilst in the USA it remained legal until 1865 when the Thirteenth Amendment passed. Moreover, the numbers vary, In Canada - according to the Canadian Encyclopedia - there were only 4,200 slaves at the peak of slavery (in New France)... whereas in the USA, according to a US Census done in 1860, there were 4 million slaves.

It's worth noting that a proper historical assessment - that is a 'flow' calculation - would note that, according to the Transatlantic Slavery Database, around 12.5 million African slaves were imported into the New World. The database is run by researchers at Emory Universiry and their figures are supported by documentary evidence. For example, they list 36,000 slavery expeditions between 1514 and 1866. They also provide information on vessels & routes as well as details on the enslavers and the enslaved.

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    Ironically, this means that Donald Trump was anti-slavery, and his pro-illegal immigration Democrat opponents supported it. Also, I don't think that considering things from 150 years ago is relevant when talking about modern slavery.
    – nick012000
    Oct 16 at 4:52
  • @nick012000: I'm talking about methodology - and methodology is important. As the authors of the report pointed out, they used a 'point calculation' and not a 'flow calculation'. A latter calculation would show the USA score was not 'superlative' but most likely abysmal, especially if one takes into account how President Jackson cheated the freed slaves from any reparations. Oct 16 at 5:02
  • @nick012000: I don't understand why you think Trump is anti-slavery? Aren't all upstanding americans who support the constitution must support the 13th Amendment that abolished slavery in the US? Oct 16 at 5:04
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    If most modern slaves in the USA are illegal immigrants, and Trump took action to curtail illegal immigration...
    – nick012000
    Oct 16 at 5:12
  • @nick012000: Very ironic. Still, a lot of illegal immigration occurs to the US because of policies that the US support in their 'backyard'. Indirectly they are causing a lot more modern slavery in the America's that the report isn't taking into account because of political sensitivities ... Oct 16 at 6:00

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