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Behind the numbers: How many slaves work for you?

Published on

Story by

Katha Kloss

Translation by:

Laura Massey

LifestyleBehind the Numbers

Did you think that the days of slavery were long gone? Quit fooling yourself. In today’s world, by some estimates, there are more than 27 million “modern slaves”. According to one study in 2014, there could be as many as 35.8 million. But what does that have to do with me?

Recently, I came across an online test: the Slavery Footprint. Armed with my clear conscience, I clicked my way through the stages: I don’t have a car, I live in a tiny Parisian apartment, use public transport and try to be as sustainable as possible without excessive consumption. Rather than ten pairs of shoes, I have three; Rather than 50 t-shirts, I have ten.

Despite this I use a smartphone, computer and tablet. I eat meat, use cosmetics and travel with low-cost airlines. Suddenly, BAM! I’m a slave owner. According to the test, my western lifestyle condemned 52 people to slavery.

Even if our generation tries to back up its increasingly squeaky-clean image, we all contribute to vast global slavery, fed by poverty, globalisation, migration and conflict. According to the Global Slavery Index, there could be 35.8 million such people in slavery, even though Article 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights expressly forbids it.


This article is part of our Behind the Numbers series, illustrating newsworthy stats with artistic design and a brief analysis.

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Translated from Zahltag: Und wie viele Sklaven hast du?