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Skip to 0 minutes and 7 seconds I’m joined today by Professor Monti Datta. Monti is the professor of political science at the University of Richmond in Richmond, Virginia, in the United States. And Monti and I have worked together for some years, and we’ve done a lot of work on the statistical side and the quantitative approach to modern slavery, including work together on the Global Slavery Index. And of course, the Global Slavery Index most recent estimate is that there are something just over 45 million people in slavery in the world today. But Monti, 45 million people. How could the Global Slavery Index be so accurate? Surely this isn’t a precise and perfect measurement?

Skip to 0 minutes and 49 seconds Well, I think that’s the number one question out there in the world of modern slavery research. How can we estimate the number of persons enslaved in the world today. The only person who might really know looking at the whole planet who’s totally enslaved would be a higher being, or a God or something. What can we do to estimate slavery? What we can do as social science researchers is look at the data. And as you and I know, we’ve been researching for the past several years modern slavery. And more recently, we’ve been able to establish a partnership with Gallup.

Skip to 1 minute and 25 seconds And through the surveys with Gallup, we’ve been able to look at different countries around the world, estimate the number of persons enslaved in those countries. And using those data points, then extrapolate to the world and estimate slavery with a certain degree of statistical significance. But now when we talked about surveys, surely we’re not just sending people out into the fields and saying, excuse me. Are you a slave? Slave holders wouldn’t really allow that, would that? So how does Gallup get to that information? The process of finding out who’s enslaved, and the process of going door to door and asking questions from which you can infer a degree of certainty about slavery is not an easy process.

Skip to 2 minutes and 13 seconds So as you and I know, working with walk free, we developed questions with Gallup. We had them tested in the field. And using those questions, we were able to ask in such a way so as to infer slavery from the person’s network, who was approached by Gallup. And then infer, with statistical significance, that those persons were representative of that country. And then taking that country estimate, then use that as a data point to extrapolate for other nations. So something like, has anyone in your household or your extended family been caught up in any of these types of enslavement. So that people were reporting for other people. That’s exactly correct.

Skip to 2 minutes and 58 seconds And so using that sample size as a network, Gallup was able to then estimate for the country the network size of modern slavery. But Kevin, there’s another issue with Gallup that I think is very, very telling. Gallup was looking at those individuals, or those households, or those families per country that were registered citizens. People who are on the books, people who are on the grid, or on the map, so to speak. But as you and I know, when slaveholders are enslaving people, those persons are typically people who are not registered, people who are off the map, off the grid. And we’re missing those populations.

Skip to 3 minutes and 39 seconds And so because of that, we know that at the best case scenario, we’re low-balling the estimates of modern slavery. So this year’s GSI says there’s 45 million persons enslaved today. That’s probably a low end estimate. I don’t want to go out on a limb and estimate it’s a particular number, if it’s double or even triple. But what we do know is that through these Gallup surveys, we’re looking at a conservative estimate at best. So we can create statistical models of global slavery, and they explain, or they help us to see what are the things that cause or predict slavery. So what have we learned? What does cause, what does predict slavery?

Skip to 4 minutes and 22 seconds Well what we’ve learned so far is that there are several key predictors of contemporary slavery. And by predictors, we’re looking at those things that best explain the nature or origins of modern slavery. And clearly, one predictor, one indicator is corruption. And what we found is that in those countries that are more corrupt, there are higher levels of slavery. And conversely, in those countries where there is less corruption, there are smaller levels of contemporary slavery. And are there other predictors that run alongside corruption? Unfortunately, there are more predictors. Another example of a predictor would be looking at what’s called the Human Development Index, the HDI index, from the United Nations.

Skip to 5 minutes and 8 seconds And the HDI index looks at education, life expectancy, and the economic well-being of a country. And again, we find that those countries that have a worse-performing HDI index, those countries have a higher level of slavery. And conversely, those countries that are strong in education, strong in life expectancy, and strong in overall well-being have lower levels of contemporary slavery. But wouldn’t that be a circular cause? Low education, I can understand how that might push people into a vulnerability that might lead them to enslavement. But isn’t it also the case that if you have a lot of slavery in your country, fewer people would be available to be educated? They would be restricted by their enslavement from going to schools?

Skip to 5 minutes and 58 seconds Well, it’s a complex relationship. And the beauty of the Global Slavery Index and quantitative modeling is that we’re beginning to unpack those relationships. And we’re really just on the ground floor of looking at the relationship, say, between corruption and modern slavery, or the HDI index and modern slavery. And we’re looking prudently at the data. But right now, all we have are these static point snapshots, really, of corruption and slavery, and the HDI index and slavery. But I think you’re just right. The story of whether or not people are enslaved and not being able to go to school can cause slavery just as much as the other way around.

Skip to 6 minutes and 43 seconds So there are these circular, or to use a nerdy term, endogenous relationships. And I imagine conflicts like that as well, since one of the things that we know about corruption is that it means that the rule of law doesn’t work in a country. And of course, if you really want to destroy the rule of law in a country, you have a civil war. And in a sense, all the rules are off, right? All the laws are broken down. And under those conditions in which the rule of law no longer functions, then criminals can step forward, or warring and competing groups can step forward, use the violence and the weapons that they have to enslaved people.

Skip to 7 minutes and 20 seconds So that also would seem to be a key predictor. Is it? Well, the data so far show– and this is all with the caveat that were just at the ground floor of looking at predictive quantitative modeling. But the data do show that looking at indicators from the Global Peace Index that once again, in those countries that there’s more civil strife, in those countries where the police are more abusive perhaps leading to corruption, there are higher levels of contemporary slavery. The exciting thing about contemporary slavery studies from a social science research perspective is that we’re beginning to make these statistical generalizations, but the fact is that we need more data.

Skip to 8 minutes and 6 seconds And that’s precisely why estimating slavery year by year around the world is so important. If we don’t keep doing that, we’re not going to ever know the true story of what causes modern slavery. I know that with any social problem or medical problem, if you don’t have a metric, you’re pretty much lost. The idea that in the past, we have been in a situation with contemporary slavery that would have been a bit like tuberculosis in the 19th century. They knew people had it. They didn’t exactly know how it was caused. They didn’t know how to track it. So the demographics or the epidemiology of tuberculosis was very difficult to understand.

Skip to 8 minutes and 46 seconds So of course, you couldn’t really solve the problem of tuberculosis. And in a way, we’re only just now inventing the epidemiology of slavery. Right, and that, I think, is one of the best analogies. That looking at modern slavery as a public health concern. And when I look at the world of public health and epidemiology, infectious diseases and the crisis of HIV/AIDS, the strength to which we can find inspiration from the anti-slavery– from the public health community, is that that community in the 1980s, the 1990s, and the 2000s, they share data. The Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, scientists around the world all share data openly and transparently.

Skip to 9 minutes and 32 seconds And that’s precisely what we need right now in the modern anti-slavery movement. We need to share data, whether you’re an NGO, an international organization, or a government, or any other non-state actor. And we need countries to share that data openly and transparently on modern slavery just like the public health community has shared data on infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS. If we don’t share that data, then I think finding the answer to ending modern slavery is going to be very, very difficult. So all of this measurement, isn’t this, though, missing something? What about the lived experience of slavery? What about the feelings about how slaves actually are responding to and understanding their lives as slaves?

Skip to 10 minutes and 23 seconds That, to me, is the piece of the puzzle that data can’t look to or can’t answer. We can use predictive quantitative modeling to look at the relationship between corruption and slavery, or conflict and slavery. But to really know the heart or the soul of contemporary slavery, that’s where we have to go beyond the numbers. And that’s where we have to look, the narratives of survivors. And the greatest benefit that I’ve encountered so far in the modern anti-slavery movement is in meeting survivors of contemporary slavery. And through learning about the stories of these survivors, I’ve begun to better understand what it really might be like to be enslaved today.

Skip to 11 minutes and 8 seconds It is an experience that I’ve never had in my life, I wish no one would ever have. But listening to the voices of these survivors, that’s begun to give me more inspiration for looking harder at the data. And it’s really made me see that in the modern anti-slavery movement, as the movement grows, it’s really the voices of these survivors who I wish or prefer would lead the movement in a way that I think we need guidance through, Just like historically in the United States, one of the leaders of our historic abolitionist movement was Frederick Douglass.

Skip to 11 minutes and 44 seconds And I look to our modern slavery survivors today as being able to pick up that mantle of Douglass, so to speak, and lead us forward. Clearly to understand things statistically, you still have to be smart enough and experienced enough to be able to base those in the lived experience, to ground them in individual people’s lives. And I think that one of the things that we want to do in this course is to help everyone who’s enrolled in the course to explore and understand what it means to look at slavery as a global phenomenon through the statistical side. But we’re also going to be exploring what it means to actually live that experience of enslavement through the narratives.

Skip to 12 minutes and 27 seconds So I’m hoping we’re going to cover all sides of this, and to get that global as well as that local picture. But I thank you very much for being with us today. It’s my pleasure.

Measuring Slavery

Dr. Monti Datta is a political scientist at the University of Richmond and an expert on contemporary slavery data.

In this film, Monti and Kevin Bales discuss how to measure contemporary slavery, and the kinds of predictors they have identified so far - including corruption, conflict, education, life expectancy, and the economic well-being of a country. They talk about the United Nation’s Human Development Index (HDI), and they emphasise the importance of sharing data to understand the size of the problem.

After watching the film, please visit the HDI Public Data Explorer. The HDI is a summary measure of average achievement in key dimensions of human development. It was created to emphasise that people and their capabilities should be the ultimate criteria for assessing the development of a country, not economic growth alone. The HDI can also be used to question national policy choices. Since 2010, the Human Development Report data has been available on Google’s Public Data Explorer, in an initiative aimed at increasing its accessibility.

Select indicators that interest you from the list on the left and set them as the X and Y axes. Then also choose one or more countries to highlight and compare, by checking the country boxes on the bottom left of the Public Data Explorer. Please base this choice on the Global Slavery Index findings for 2016 - whether from the country ranking by proportion of population or the country ranking by absolute number of people. Are there any patterns? Which indicators are particularly noteworthy for the countries you examined? In other words, are there human development measures that might help explain why slavery is so prevalent in a particular country? Share your findings in the comments.

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This video is from the free online course:

Ending Slavery: Strategies for Contemporary Global Abolition

The University of Nottingham