UK’s response to modern slavery regarded as best in the world, says new report

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Experts from the Rights Lab at the University of Nottingham have worked on a collaborative report looking at how governments from across the globe are responding to the problem of 40.3 million people living in modern slavery.

The ‘Measurement, Action, Freedom’ report, the world’s most comprehensive assessment of government action on the issue of modern slavery, was launched today (17 July) at the United Nations by Minderoo Foundation’s Walk Free initiative, the report author.

The data collected for this report was part of Minderoo’s collaboration with experts from the Rights Lab, the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (UK), and Regenesys.

The report is released a week after the Rights Lab was announced as an integral partner in a new cutting-edge policy and evidence centre by the Prime Minister.

The research ranks the UK number one in the world for its response to modern slavery, ahead of the Netherlands and US. These leading actors are characterised by strong political will, high levels of resources, and a strong civil society that holds governments to account.

However, the report also finds efforts in the UK have been hindered by restrictive migration policies, such as the UK’s ‘hostile environment’ policy, which increases the vulnerability of undocumented migrants to modern slavery.

The report finds that where safe migration pathways are blocked, migrants become increasingly vulnerable to exploitation and modern slavery. The ‘hostile environment’ has led to wrongful detention and deportation, and fear and uncertainty. It has limited access to safety nets, such as housing and legitimate work, for already vulnerable groups.

Whilst progress is being made globally, it is falling far short of where it needs to be, with 10,000 people currently needing to be freed each day to achieve UN Sustainable Development Goal 8.7 by 2030.

Experts from the Rights Lab completed data collection for 159 countries. The research involved two stages: the initial step was data collection through a recommended hierarchy of sources, and next was outreach to non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

Professor Zoe Trodd, Director of the Rights Lab at the University of Nottingham, said: "This brilliant report is in a class of its own. As the global anti-slavery community works towards SDG 8.7, we need milestones and indicators for progress, and examples of good practice. This data-driven global investigation into national anti-slavery governance tracks nations' progress across a huge number of datapoints and against a strong conceptual framework.

The Rights Lab was honoured to help with the data collection for this 2019 report, which provides a pathway to impact through its development of the global evidence base and its systematic analysis of factors driving and inhibiting effective anti-slavery governance. We are proud of its rigorous, innovative, and evidence-based research that engages with a vast range of interrelated factors and can be a blueprint for local, national and international adaptation."
Professor Zoe Trodd

‘Measurement, Action, Freedom’ found the 10 countries taking the most action to respond to modern slavery are the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, the United States, Portugal, Sweden, Argentina, Belgium, Spain, Croatia and Australia.

The 10 countries taking the least action to respond to modern slavery are North Korea, Eritrea, Libya, Iran, Equatorial Guinea, Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Congo, Russia and Somalia.

According to Walk Free’s 2018 Global Slavery Index (GSI), approximately 6.9 million people were in some form of modern slavery in these last 10 countries. This amounts to 17 percent of the total number of people in modern slavery living where there is limited, if any, government action.

“The ‘Measurement, Action, Freedom’ report finds that although we are making progress on responding to modern slavery, this progress is taking place at a glacial pace,” Walk Free manager of global research and one of the report authors, Katharine Bryant, said.

“If we’re serious about achieving SDG 8.7 by 2030, then we need to strengthen our measurement of government action to tackle this gross violation of human rights. We are joined by a coalition of 30 civil society groups which also believe that in order to track and accelerate progress we need to develop indicators for all forms of modern slavery under SDG 8.7.”

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More information is available from Professor Zoe Trodd at

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