Hundreds of Thousands in Indonesia Still Trapped in Modern-Day Slavery, Study Finds

A detained suspected illegal migrant worker from Indonesia sits in an immigration truck during a crackdown on illegal migrant workers in Kelang, outside Kuala Lumpur September 1, 2013. (Reuters Photo/Bazuki Muhammad)

By : Nivell Rayda | on 6:00 AM May 31, 2016
Category : News, Featured, Labor

Jakarta. Around 736,000 individuals are trapped in modern-day slavery in Indonesia, the Walk Free Foundation, a global human rights group dedicated to ending modern slavery, found in its “2016 Global Slavery Index” released on Tuesday (31/05).

Indonesia ranked tenth out of the 167 countries surveyed in the index, based on the absolute number of people considered slaves, namely children who have been denied education after being forced to work or marry early, men unable to leave their work due to debt and women and girls exploited as unpaid and abused domestic workers.

India topped the list with more than 18 million people falling victim to modern-day slavery, ahead of China in a distant second with 3.38 million. Indonesia has the highest number of slaves in Southeast Asia, ahead of Myanmar with 515,000 and Thailand with 425,000.

Brunei has 3,400 people considered modern-day slaves, making it the lowest in the region and 151st worldwide — although the figure represents 0.81 percent of the kingdom's population.

Indonesia ranked 39th in terms of prevalence, the index suggests, with the number of slaves representing 0.29 percent of the population. In Southeast Asia, Cambodia has the highest prevalence of slavery with 1.65 percent of the 15.5 million population (256,000 people) falling victim to practices of modern-day slavery.

Worldwide, North Korea topped the list in terms of prevalence with the number of slaves (1.1 million people) representing 4.37 percent of the population.

Although Indonesia slightly improved in terms of rankings compared to the last survey in 2014, the absolute number of slaves actually grew. The 2014 index estimated that 714,000 people in Indonesia have fallen victim to modern slavery practices.

The foundation commended the Indonesian government's commitment to ending modern-day slavery, giving its efforts a "B" rating, meaning: “the government has introduced a response to modern slavery, with limited victim support services, a criminal justice framework that criminalizes some forms of modern slavery … and has policies that provide some protection for those vulnerable to modern slavery. “

The study gave Indonesia's effort to support survivors a score of 37.59 and scores Indonesia's steps to address risks at 54.76. In comparison, the Netherlands, which tops the survey in terms of government response with a "BBB" rating, scored 74.63 in support to survivors and 99.99 in steps to address risk.

The study highlighted the Indonesian government’s work last year on rescuing and repatriating 2,000 trafficked fishermen working on Thai vessels in Benjina, Maluku as well as imposing domestic workers ban in several Middle Eastern countries after numerous cases of exploitation

Indonesia's rating is better than Cambodia, Malaysia and Myanmar all rated a "CCC." No countries in the study received an "A" rating.

The study highlighted that only the United States, the United Kingdom, Brazil and Australia are taking steps to ensure that businesses do not sell or buy goods made by forced labor or children.

“Businesses that don’t actively look for forced labor within their supply chains are standing on a burning platform. Business leaders who refuse to look into the realities of their own supply chains are misguided and irresponsible,”  Andrew Forrest, chairman and founder of Walk Free Foundation, said in a statement.

“We call on governments ... to enact laws ... with a budget and capability to ensure organizations are held to account for modern slavery in their supply chains, and to empower independent oversight.”

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