Gains in fight vs modern slavery cited

The Global Slavery Index 2016 put the Philippines at no. 33 among 167 economies it ranked based on the proportion of the population held as modern-day slaves.

By that measure — estimated number of people trapped in slavery divided by total population — North Korea ranked 1st, with 4.3% of its 25 million people falling victims.

Uzbekistan, Cambodia, India, and Qatar rounded out the worst five.

Luxembourg is at the bottom of that list, with just 100 modern-day slaves out of its 562,000 population.

In absolute numbers, however, India has the most number of slaves at 18.3 million people.

More than 30 million people are enslaved in the Asia Pacific region, which accounted for 66% of the total 45.8 million people enslaved across the world.

The study suggested that there were 28% more slaves than estimated two years ago, a revision reached through better data collection and research methods.

The study, published by Walk Free Foundation, defines modern slavery as “situations of exploitation that a person cannot refuse or leave because of threats, violence, coercion, abuse of power or deception” including but not limited to human trafficking, forced labour, and debt bondage.

In spite of this, the Philippines has been cited for its positive efforts in responding to problem relative to the country’s wealth.

“The Philippine government in particular has supported NGO [non-government organization] victim recovery and reintegration programmes providing victims with shelter, psychological, medical, legal and vocational support,” a press release accompanying the report read.

The research survey also acknowledged the Philippines’ initiative to sign the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention on Domestic Workers, the first and only country to have done so in the region.

However, a representative from a Philippine labor group thinks that the survey’s numbers are too small to reflect reality on the ground.

“Yung 400,000 napakaliit. Mas malala pa ang situasyon ng Pilipinas, (400,000 is too few. The situation in the Philippines is worse),” Alan A. Tanjusay, spokesperson of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines — Nagkaisa faction said in a phone interview, citing cases of child labor, among other violations.

Albeit acknowledging the government’s efforts, Mr. Tanjusay noted poor compliance with and the lax implementation of the law would account for a much larger number of modern slavery victims.

“There’s an effort but it’s very wanting because, with the law lacking teeth, what you see on the ground is voluntary compliance,” he said in Filipino.

Republic Act No. 10364 or the “Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2012” imposes a penalty of 15 to 20 years of imprisonment and a fine of P500,000 to 1 million pesos.

The Global Slavery Index 2016, the previous edition of which was published in 2014, cannot be viewed in a comparative lens despite having larger counts of victims than in previous indices due to a change in methodology. Authors said the study used “enhanced data collection and research methodology.”

The research was a product of over 42,000 interviews in 53 languages across 25 countries, with the results being “extrapolated to countries with an equivalent risk profile.”

Some 124 countries have criminalised human trafficking in line with the UN Trafficking Protocol and 96 have developed national action plans to coordinate the government response.

However, Australian billionaire mining magnate and philantropist Andrew Forrest, who set up the Walk Free Foundation, said more robust measures were needed.

“We call on governments of the top 10 economies of the world to enact laws, at least as strong as the UK Modern Slavery Act 2015, with a budget and capability to ensure organisations are held to account for modern slavery in their supply chains, and to empower independent oversight,” he said.

“I believe in the critical role of leaders in government, business and civil society. Through our responsible use of power, strength of conviction, determination and collective will, we all can lead the world to end slavery.”

The report also tracked actions and responses to the problem, with governments at the forefront including the United States, Australia, and a host of European nations including Britain, Portugal and Norway.

Those with the weakest action included Iran, Hong Kong and China.

It cited Croatia, Brazil and the Philippines as countries to take positive steps since the last Global Slavery Index in 2014, while praising India for making significant progress in addressing the problem.

Source: Business World Online

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