Forced labour is the most prevalent form of modern slavery in Europe and Central Asia, according to new data published on Wednesday.
The rate of forced labour (3.6 per 1,000 people) in both regions — considered as one in the report — was higher than the rate of forced marriage (0.4 per 1,000 people).
The report, by the Walk Free Foundation, is billed as the world’s most comprehensive report on modern slavery.
It looks at various forms of modern slavery that include human trafficking, forced marriage, forced labour, forced sexual exploitation and use of children in armed conflict.
Of those in forced labour in Europe and Central Asia, more than a third (36%) were held in debt bondage.
The region also accounted for 14% of forced sexual exploitation worldwide.
However, the prevalence of forced marriage was the lowest out of all the world regions.
In the European continent, Belarus and North Macedonia — relative to their population size — have the highest prevalence of modern slavery in the region while Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine have the highest absolute number and account for over one-third (39%) of the victims in the region.
The trend was for countries in the eastern half of Europe to have higher rates of modern slavery.
Portugal had the highest prevalence in western Europe (2.5 victims per 1,000 inhabitants), however, Italy had the highest estimated absolute number of victims (145,000).
The group assessed 183 governments on factors such as the identification of slavery survivors, criminal justice, support systems and efforts to clean up supply chains.
The best government responses to modern slavery
The region has, in general, the strongest response to modern slavery. Europe, in particular, has set up regional watchdogs that hold countries to account and monitor their responses to modern slavery.
“The European Union’s proactive approach to tackling modern slavery means that Europe leads the way in engaging with business as well as taking steps to investigate public procurement,” said the report.
Countries have improved their response to modern slavery by setting up protective services for victims, establishing coordination and accountability mechanisms, it added.
The Netherlands had the best response rating in the region, followed by the United Kingdom and Sweden.
Russia was given the worst response rating.
Georgia, Ukraine, and Moldova were among the countries to take notable action to end modern slavery despite their more limited resources, it said.
'World still far from eradicating modern slavery'
Not enough progress has been made to end modern slavery by 2030 — one of the global goals unanimously adopted by members of the United Nations. said the report.
At today's rate, achieving that goal is "impossible", the report said. It would require freeing some 10,000 people each day for the next decade, it said.
More than 40 million people are estimated to be held in modern slavery (forced labour and forced marriage), according to Walk Free and the International Labour Organisation.
In nearly 100 countries, forced labour is still not considered a crime or a minor offence, said the report, adding that only about a third of countries have banned forced marriage.