Report on Eritrea by the Global Slavery Index

Today (Thursday 19th July, 2018), the 2018 Global Slavery Index (GSI) published by the Walk Free Foundation was released. The report measures world-wide slavery estimates and conditions by country and also identifies the steps that governments are taking to respond to the issue. The global report reveals that an estimated 40.3 million men, women and children were victims of modern slavery – with 24.9 million people engaged in forced labour and 15.4 million are living in a forced marriage. Women and girls constitute 71% of the victims.

While the global estimates are staggering, the regional prevalence estimates for Africa are even more disturbing. Modern slavery is most prevalent in Africa, followed by Asia and the Pacific region.

Specifically, the regional analysis for Africa estimates that:

– 9.2 million men, women and children in Africa were victims of modern slavery (with Africa having 23% regional proportion of the global estimate).

– 63% are victims of forced marriage and 37% are victims of forced labour.

– 54% of forced labour victims were held in debt bondage.

– 400,000 people were victims of forced sexual exploitation (accounting for 8% of all victims of forced sexual exploitation and commercial sexual exploitation of children worldwide).

Findings on Eritrea

Most significantly, Eritrea has the highest prevalence of modern slavery across Africa (and the second in the world, with North Korea coming first worldwide). In total, 9 out of every 1,000 people (9.3%) thus, nearly 1 out of every 10 people, of the Eritrean population are victims of modern slavery. In total, 451,000 Eritreans are slavery victims – mainly due to the state-imposed forced labour. The report iterates this, mentioning that, “North Korea is followed closely by Eritrea, a repressive regime that abuses its conception system to hold its citizens in forced labour for decades”.

Regional Country Estimated prevalence (victims per 1,000 population) Estimated absolute number of victims Population
1 Eritrea 93.0 451,000 4,847,000

“Abuse of conscription becomes state-imposed forced labour in cases where conscripts are forced to perform work of a non-military nature. We find evidence of this in Colombia, Egypt, Madagascar, Mongolia, and Mali and perhaps most significantly in Eritrea. Under the pretext of “defending the integrity of the state and ensuring its self-sufficiency,”86 the Eritrean government has developed a system of national service in which conscripts are exploited and forced to labour for indefinite periods of time. These forced labourers are required to build infrastructure and work in other projects for economic development that help to prop up the Eritrean government”.

Country Name Governance Issues Lack of basic needs Inequality Disenfranchised Groups Effects of Conflict Final weighted overall score
Eritrea 71.0 50.6 33.7 48.1 25.9 69.6

Government Response

Eritrea scores lowly on the government response to modern slavery and is one of the top 10 countries in the world that has taken the least action to combat modern slavery (amongst the likes of North Korea, Libya and Iran).


Governments and businesses should prioritise human rights in decision making when engaging with repressive regimes.  “It is equally clear that businesses and governments continuing to trade with highly repressive regimes such as North Korea and Eritrea are contributing to the maintenance of forced labour”.