According to some estimates, there are currently 58,000 people enslaved in the U.S. Many of them are domestic workers, including housekeepers.
Human traffickers operate in the shadows. That makes it difficult to know the exact number of slaves in each country. But nearly 60 percent of the world’s slaves are thought to be in India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Uzbekistan. That means that the majority of slaves worldwide are in just five countries (see map, below).
In those nations, hundreds of millions of people live in poor communities without economic opportunities or access to proper schooling. That makes them easy prey for human traffickers, who promise them work and opportunities.
Sometimes, parents are tricked into selling their own kids. Traffickers often promise that the children will get an education and earn money to send back home. But once the kids have left their villages, they’re put to work in factories, mines, homes, fields, restaurants, hotels, and sometimes brothels. They aren’t allowed to go to school, see their families, or play outside.
Like child laborers, child slaves work in hazardous conditions for hours on end. But unlike other child laborers, says Bryant, slaves are “owned” by their captors and can’t return home.
In Southeast Asia, for example, kids as young as 7 are forced to weave rugs in dark rooms with no fresh air. In West Africa, they get up at 6 in the morning to harvest cocoa beans all day long in the scorching heat. In Latin America, they work on farms where they’re exposed to toxic chemicals, picking crops until their fingers bleed.