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Mar 8, 2016

In Episode 4 of The Rights Track, Todd asks Kevin Bales, Professor of Contemporary Slavery at the University of Hull, about modern day slavery, the challenges in identifying and counting victims, his work on the Global Slavery Index and how it’s used to hold Governments and countries to account over the problem. He also discusses his book, Blood and Earth in which he looks at how modern day slavery and climate change intersect. Here are some notes and links on their discussion:

00.00-6.20 mins

  • Why it’s important to measure slavery and why it’s a major challenge to do so
  • The advances and pushes that have taken place in the last decade to account for slavery
  • Some historical context around the abolition of slavery
  • The importance of understanding and agreeing a core definition of modern day slavery rather than enumerating examples of it
  • An interesting example of how slavery can operate in India

6.20-11.00 mins

  • The Global Slavery Index - what it is and what it tells us about the prevalence of slavery in the world
  • What data has been collected and is available
  • Issues around sample sizes and how these have been addressed
  • Qatar - how the Index has gathered information from individuals in ‘supplying countries’ to determine extent of the problem in a country which won’t allow researchers in to determine the extent of slavery


  • Using a scale to ‘name and shame’ worst offenders via the media but why this approach has shortcomings
  • How Kevin and colleagues have used the Index to push Governments and countries that ‘should and could’ be doing better e.g. Norway
  • The geographical spread of slaves in a country and the developments being made in accounting for that
  • Plans to survey individual states in India
  • The thinking behind the maps presented on the Index and the techniques and sources used to get estimations and predictions for countries where surveys are not undertaken
  • Work published in the Royal Statistical Society’s Worldwide Statistics Day issue on the work of the Global Slavery Index

17.45-22.33 mins

  • Prevalence of slavery in Europe - research featured in Human Rights Quarterly
  • Explanation of the ‘Dark Figure’ in accounting for crimes - the gap between the reported incidents of a crime and the actual figure and the problems applying that to slavery
  • The large and alarming dark figures for for European, particularly Eastern European countries
  • The proportions of victims of slavery that Kevin estimates are captured in the Index

22.33-30.00 mins

  • Slavery in Great Britain - difficulties of applying surveys in rich countries
  • Using multiple systems estimations in slavery crime (including an explanation of how that works)
  • How Kevin worked with the Home Office and the legal/political/ethical challenges that posed
  • How they used different lists to estimate slavery in GB as 11-15,000 cases
  • Positive response from policy makers and civil servants and other countries in using this approach
  • How these techniques could be employed at a local level
  • Why reliable metrics can help progress


  • Kevin’s book Blood and Earth
  • Ecocide - what it is and why we need to think about it
  • How Kevin came to investigate the links between slavery and environmental degradation
  • The links between deforestation and slavery
  • Some interesting facts and figures around slavery and what happens when you take deforestation into account
  • What all this means for climate change i.e. the enforcement of anti slavery laws could help reduce carbon emissions

Additional reading for interest from our collaborator Open Democracy