Hi Reddit! I’m Kevin Bales @kevin_bales, Professor of Contemporary Slavery at the University of Nottingham, co-author of the Global Slavery Index, and co-founder of Free the Slaves. In 1999 I published the Pulitzer Prize-nominated book Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy.

I am here to talk to you about ending modern slavery and to promote two related educational projects I am running to learn more about global abolition and how to get involved in the campaign. One of them is a free massive open online course that starts today called Ending Slavery: Strategies for Contemporary Global Abolition. The other is a fully-accredited, one year full-time, distance learning Master of Arts entitled Slavery and Liberation, which begins in September this year.

Let’s do this: Proof: (http://imgur.com/7xybC80)

Edit: Thanks for all the questions so far. I am flying to London now. Will be back around 9pm BST/4pm EST to answer some more so keep them coming!

Comments: 1004 • Responses: 76  • Date: 

iwas99x514 karma

Kevin, have you studied the Slave Labor being used to construct the Qatar 2022 World Cup Facilities'? If so, what do you think the public can do about the situation to make changes and pressure sponsors of the event and the people in involved with the event?

KevinBales789 karma

I haven't worked in this problem in Qatar in any deep way (Qatar won't let the Global Slavery Index team in!), but it's hard not to know about it because some great research has been done. It's surprising to me that there are any sponsors left and anyone willing to buy a ticket given that this is blatant exploitation, horrific working conditions, and many cases of slavery as well.

iwas99x317 karma

Kevin, are items labeled "fair trade" made certain they are not made from slave labor?

KevinBales478 karma

For the most part yes. This is because the fairtrade cooperatives that supply fairtrade goods don't have slavery, they're mostly farmers cooperatives. I trust fairtrade to mean slave-free.

pearosa190 karma

What kinds of initiatives, in your experience, work best to free people from slavery? Or does it depend on where the slavery is happening?

KevinBales238 karma

It certainly does depend on where it is happening and what type of slavery is occurring, but we know that community based programs are very powerful for many types of slavery. When a community decides together that they will throw off slavery, it is pretty much unstoppable, and those who liberate themselves (with some support usually) often go on to free others. There's some good descriptions of different types of programs at the Freedom Fund http://freedomfund.org/about/what-we-do/

silasgreenfront168 karma

Do you think that legalizing and regulating prostitution affects the amount of commercial sex slavery?

KevinBales408 karma

Yes, I think that legalizing prostitution INCREASES enslavement into commercial sexual exploitation - the research I've seen seems to say that. It seems to me that a better model is to make buying sex illegal and selling it legal - as they do in Sweden - but even that seems not good enough in terms of lessening the damage that commercial sexual exploitation does to people.

iwas99x142 karma

Kevin, what are the most widely held misconceptions about slavery by people?

KevinBales315 karma

Probably, and especially in the wealthy countries, that it is all about enslavement into commercial sexual exploitation AND that people in slavery are somehow different to the rest of us and should be thought of as one-dimensional victims.

MaturinsGirth127 karma

Thank you for all you do! I know this is a trite, cliche, and nebulous question; BUT......what can I, Maturin's Girth do to help end Alavert. I already don't own any slaves, nor are there any obvious ones around me that I could fight to emancipate.

Serious question though-how can I help? I like in Chicago, Illinois, USA. I'm 34, I don't have any money but I have a car, righteous indignation,, and the will. I have a little time but I work a lot just to maintain a roof over my head and food in my belly. I hope that helps narrow the question.

KevinBales176 karma

Hi Maturin's Girth - there are a few things you can do, and I completely get it that you are someone who works for a living and wants to do the right thing - exactly like most of us! For starters you can watch what you buy, look for those slave-free products. It's not always easy cause many companies don't have a clue if they have slavery in their supply chain. You can also look in Chicago for some of the great groups there that work on the issue, some work with survivors, others work to get the state laws improved. And, of course, just reading and learning about modern slavery means you can tell others about it. Share that indignation!

iwas99x106 karma

Kevin, What or who inspired you to be so involved in learning and teaching About Contemporary Slavery?

KevinBales262 karma

I saw a leaflet in the early 1990s that said "There are millions of slaves in the world today" and I thought it was BS! Inside the leaflet were single case - and I thought that you can't make millions out of a few cases ... but then I thought if this is true it would be astounding and if it were false someone show disprove it. So I started digging into it and found more and more slavery .... and I'm still at it!

iwas99x97 karma

Kevin, why doesn't the media do more investigation pieces on modern slavery? Is it non profitable for them as talking about scandals from politicians or is it just something producers/publisher/editors are oblivious to?

KevinBales118 karma

To me it seems as if they are doing them all the time - I guess I remember when it was very rare to see anything in the media. But I think one reason there aren't more is because it can be a tough (and expensive) story to get - you're dealing with criminal after all.

Houston_NeverMind88 karma

Thank you for all your work. Which area of the world are more prone to slavery? What are the major obstacles in removing this problem from the society?

KevinBales148 karma

Have a look at the world map in the Global Slavery Index https://www.globalslaveryindex.org and you can see the countries with the highest density of slavery. You'll note that these are countries with many similar problems: ongoing or recent conflicts; serious environmental damage; high levels of corruption; low levels of human and economic development. All of these are big obstacles, but the good news is that we know you don't have to solve them completely to get people out of slavery - and in fact, if you get people out of slavery it helps to solve these problems.

MaesterMagoo64 karma

What is the best way to see if slavery is involved in a supply chain and where are we most likely to see it?

KevinBales92 karma

The short answer is that it is pretty difficult to see if slavery is in a supply chain, the average consumer has to rely on indicators like Fair Trade and groups that inspect and review (like Walk Free and Freedom United). These days if you live in California or the UK you can see what big companies have posted in their required 'slavery in supply chains' reports. I wish I had an easy answer! My recent book Blood and Earth explains a lot about how slavery works in the supply chain of a number of the things we buy - AND how it is also a major driver of climate change.

MaesterMagoo36 karma

Is there tips like be careful of shellfish from Vietnam or don't buy Sudanese diamonds? These are off the cuff bs examples but you know what I mean.

KevinBales91 karma

Good point - after doing research in slavery in shrimp in SE Asia, I will tell you that I do not buy or eat shrimp unless I KNOW they are from somewhere like the US gulf coast. Mainly because of all the slavery I saw, but also because I saw what happened with the shrimp before they were frozen and sent to the North America and Europe - it was just nasty, that nutty taste is the rice water they were fed from some family's last-night supper. I'm very dubious of gold unless it is definitely slave-free/fairtrade; wouldn't touch a diamond for anything.

mymorningjacket60 karma

Is anything going to be done with Libya? Hillary and Obama left that place in shambles after Gaddafi didn't want to play ball and now what once was one of the most progressive African countries is now openly slave trading. It's saturated with human and sex trafficking and it seems like nobody cares at all.

KevinBales88 karma

I agree, the international community basically went thinking they were heroes and screwed it all up and then left. I have to admit it is a tough and baffling situation now that government is collapsed and armed groups are dividing up control. Will it be the next Eastern Congo? If so, it would likely need UN Peacekeepers, but I can't see international support for that.

danila_medvedev55 karma

Why don't people give a fuck?

A few years ago I helped start the fight against slavery in Russia, bringing the issue to the attention of the public. My friends have since freed hundreds of slaves, we helped indirectly to free thousands.

Still, when I sometimes mention that on various occassions, people don't seem to give a fuck or they are simply too uncomfortable.

Why would that be? :-) I am aware of the obvious explanations, but really, why? What can we do about it?

KevinBales49 karma

It IS often hard to get the message across, I know this so well. But remember that for many people the idea that there is "still" slavery seems impossible, and when they face it they find it very uncomfortable to consider, much less confront. Which is why it is really important to spread the word, but in a way that opens up possibilities for positive action. What you've been doing is important, and all newish issues take a while to catch on, but 20 years from now people will say things like 'we always knew we could fight this!'. It is big, it is complex, it will take years, but the more people who wake up to it and do their little bit, and the more scholars that help us to get to grips with how best to end it, and the more politicians who live up to their promises, well... history takes a while and ending slavery is definitely historic!

iwas99x48 karma

Kevin, what percentage of slavery is hard labor and what percentage is sex work slavery?

KevinBales149 karma

We don't know the precise percentages, but it's clear that the majority of people in slavery are in areas like hereditary collateral debt bondage slavery in fields like agriculture or mining. If I had to GUESS, and note I am guessing, cause we don't have hard figures - I would say 70% labour and 30% commercial sexual exploitation. BUT please note that virtually ALL women in slavery get sexually assaulted - farm, factory, mine, domestic service. There are few things that are completely true in human existence, but women in slavery are raped, and that means that the division between 'sex' and 'work' slavery is pretty muddy.

GISP44 karma

The American for profit prisons, aint they cutting it prety close?
Where is the border of exactly?

KevinBales76 karma

Hi GISP - this is a great question. Yes, the for-profit prisons are very much moving into the zone of State Sponsored Slavery - a distinct type that often includes enslaved prison populations - and used extensively in China. The key here is that when someone ends up in prison without Due Process, then is economically exploited, we're crossing that border (as you say). Now that a very large number of US people are put into prison through 'plea bargain' deals - basically the threat of a very long sentence or just a long one if they don't go to trial, then large numbers are in prison who have never been to trial. It is very much like the enslavement of African-Americans after the Civil War - see Blackmon's book Slavery by Another Name.

Osbios20 karma

The key here is that when someone ends up in prison without Due Process

But why would it make a difference if it is Due Process? As soon as you enable slavery for prisoners you get very big financial interessts to influence the law and the curts. And I would argure that is exactly what you see in the US-"justice" system right now.

KevinBales38 karma

I don't disagree with you, but I am also in favour of a system of laws that do protect anyone charged so that all those rights are available - like trial by peers, not guilty till proven, etc etc. I also agree with you that when you hand over incarceration to private profit-making companies it is likely to be a bad thing for those incarcerated, whether by due process or not. Of course, US prisons in many states were very brutal and ugly places before the prison-industrial system really grew in its current form (I worked in prison years ago). The US system is a blot and a disgrace, and I think could be edging rapidly into a form of state enslavement. This area needs more and better research.

iwas99x37 karma

Kevin, which fictional movies and TV shows best depict contemporary slavery?

KevinBales64 karma

This is a good question, and I have a poor answer - most of the films and TV shows that deal with slavery are at best 'OK' and at worst really off-base. I loved the film Call and Response, and Beloved is a powerful novel that deals with slavery. But I think that we are still learning how to faithfully portray people in slavery - and that means getting away from always presenting them as victims with little other personality.

iwas99x36 karma

Kevin, what are the most common types of ways people use slaves and what are the most common types of ways people become slaves?

KevinBales52 karma

Very common are mining and agriculture and domestic service and forced commercial sexual exploitation - but here's the thing criminal slaveholders are very good at adapting and thinking up new way to use enslaved people - so almost any way you can think of, and then some.

liquidhotshmegma32 karma

Are there any current efforts to make it more transparent to consumers whether or not slavery was involved in the supply gain for a given product/company? I would definitely pay attention to a "slave-free" designation or rating system when making purchases. Are any organizations trying to fill this information gap?

KevinBales47 karma

Yes, and I really like the organisation Made in A Free World - they are doing a good job of trying to crack this. But supply chains are long, complex, changeable, and often hidden from view, so it is a moving target which means having a reliable 'slave-free' label would be hard to achieve for all products. Meanwhile, a lot of good and usually small companies are working hard to make sure their supply chains are clean. I recently found some jeans that were labelled 'slavery free' - I did some research on the company and then bought four pairs.

NewAbstract25 karma

Hello and thank you for everything you do! I have to admit I wasn't aware how large an issue slavery in the modern day is. What would you say is the most shocking information you know about modern slavery that most people would not believe?

KevinBales91 karma

I think the most shocking is something that is shocking in a good way: yes, 46 million in slavery in the world, and yes, $150 billion in criminal profits from slavery BUT this is the smallest percentage of the global population to EVER be in slavery, and that $150 billion is the tiniest fraction of the global economy to ever come from slavery. The shocker is that slavery is standing on the edge of its own extinction and if we wake up a little we can push it over the edge. And, OK, slavery may never disappear completely, some people being as they are, but my aim is to see it become as rare as cannibalism.

HitlerLovedLemons18 karma

Prof.Kevin can you please explain the life of a slave after liberation?How do the go back into the system of life?

KevinBales30 karma

That's a long possible answer! But first we need to remember that every person who comes out of slavery is an individual, so their lives may well be very different afterwards, and also determined by how severe their experience of slavery has been. If they're fortunate and get the support to rebuild, maybe get education or medical care, then they are like any of us trying to get by. Obviously it is tough if you carry wounds in your heart, mind or body, but lots of people do and come through that adversity.

iwas99x17 karma

Kevin, what type of jobs would one get into with a MA in Slavery and Abolition do for a career?

KevinBales27 karma

Good question! And of course, it's a brand new degree, so we'll be finding out - BUT I know there are NGOs and other agencies that would be interested in someone with special training in this area. You could use it into teaching, and you could carry on and do a PhD in human rights or another related space. Companies that are worried about supply chains could be interested.

PandaPandaTime17 karma

Do you have any data on the gender break down of slaves?

KevinBales32 karma

No precise information on this, but having worked on slavery all over the world I would say slavery is an equal opportunity exploiter - about equal overall - more women enslaved in the rich countries, more men in other countries.

ulvain16 karma

Hi professor Bales, I'm curious to hear your thoughts on how a post-slavery society could efficiently integrate their former slaves, to avoid 'class warfare' blatant inequities, a taking over by the prison industry and racism/segregation, like the US faced and are facing since the civil war?

KevinBales50 karma

Hi Ulvain - you know you almost answered the question yourself - if there is one country in the world that is the best example of how NOT to free slaves and then create a post-slavery society it is the USA. The emancipation was botched, no real access to education, jobs, credit, no 40 acres and a mule, denied real citizenship, and slammed squarely with institutional racism AND re-enslavement through the peonage system. Not surprisingly, what we know from work in other countries is reverse all those and it starts to work - access to jobs, education, etc etc. America, and African-Americans in particular, is still paying the price for that botched emancipation.

mailmanjohn16 karma

Do you consider modern economics and global trade to be the main factors in what would be considered slavery today? ie most of the world lives in poverty (defined by 1st world standards), 1st world nations tend to have ridiculous standards of living compared to 3rd world nations, lack of upward mobility for the majority of the world's poor, etc.

KevinBales22 karma

If you mean that modern economics and global trade are the main DRIVERS, then I would say they are supporting factors, but not usually the main drivers. You're right in all you say, the rich world is obscenely rich and wasteful, and poor countries are ground down in international trade. But when we look closely at slavery we see that corruption, conflict (like civil or ethnic wars), environmental destruction, high levels of discrimination, even a lack of access to credit can be stronger predictors of how slavery exists in a country.

mailmanjohn12 karma

What 1st world political changes would you recommend to even the playing field?

KevinBales32 karma

Here's a few: End the subsidies on US farm products that drive farmers around the world into destitution for starters (you'd be surprised how many antislavery workers around the world say this is a huge problem that pushes people into slavery). Then the arms trade - since the end of the Cold War the developing world has been flooded with cheap small arms and conflict and violence and slavery grow in that context. Then enforce the international agreements already on the books - there were weapons inspectors sent to Iraq and Syria by the UN - but slavery is equally forbidden by international agreements, where are the UN Slavery Inspectors? My book Ending Slavery has a good bit more on this....

iwas99x16 karma

Kevin, are there certain charities that Redditors can donate their time and money to help make a difference in stopping slavery?

KevinBales24 karma

These are groups I support, ones that I know are efficient and effective: Free the Slaves; Voices for Freedom (http://voices4freedom.org); AntiSlavery International; Polaris.

Fleebus_Kahn15 karma

Hi Mr. Bales. Do you think there's anything to be said about about incarcerated Americans, who are allowed to be exploited for free labor within the prison industrial complex according to the 13th amendment? Is this phenomena outside of your organization's scope of practice, why or why not, and how do you feel about it?

To clarify, this is in NO way an indirect critique of the GSI or your efforts; I am deeply thankful for everything you do and the awareness you raise.I personally view labor generated through the 13th amendment exception as an example of contemporary slave labor; though their living conditions and treatments do not parallel the severity of other examples such as human sex trafficking, both practices are undoubtedly dehumanizing. It's simply that when I saw the GSI figures on the USA, I could immediately see that these figures could not possibly include incarcerated Americans. I was interested about your opinion.

KevinBales17 karma

A lot of people have been asking the same question - see below, and I agree with you, I think this is a very disturbing shift and one that takes the USA into the same zone as China and Burma and Uzbekistan in terms of state-sponsored slavery. That said, it IS in the scope of our work, but isn't an area that I've been able to dig into deeply. Your question is spot-on - and we need to develop clear criteria for judging when a prison has crossed the line.

iwas99x15 karma

Kevin, why is Australia, Europe, North and South America so much better than Asia and Africa at stop slavery from happening?

KevinBales49 karma

They're not! They just happen to have fewer drivers to slavery: less corruption; less conflict; etc. The REAL question for those countries is why they are so poor at getting rid of the slavery they've got. Look at Norway - tight borders, great and honest police, plenty of money to spend on the problem, low corruption, public are horrified at the problem - the question for the rich countries is why do you have ANY slavery?

MaesterMagoo13 karma

Because people want to pay for sex and/or not pay for immigrant home labor?

KevinBales22 karma

That would apply to people willing to break the law or at least abuse/exploit people. But my question was more directed to the governments who could dramatically reduce slavery in their borders if they chose to.

lynnlikely15 karma

I am a survivor of contemporary slavery, a form that is seldom recognized by researchers and advocacy groups, but which includes trafficking and medical experimentation. The only people I know who are working to raise awareness are two women from Canada. They've had some success with various UN bodies.

Have you heard of the term Non-state torture, and if so, do you support its legal recognition?

KevinBales11 karma

Yes, I do know of this, and also about how people (and children) are kidnapped into situations where torture is applied for 'religious' reasons. Torture gets a lot of attention, but you're right the focus is usually on torture by states. This should be clearly defined and recognised.

coll_een_s14 karma

What are your thoughts on the history of American slavery and how it has now translated to continually* oppressing the black community and creating the industry of profitable private prisons?


KevinBales25 karma

You might look down the AMA, we talked about this earlier. In a nutshell the US prison system is beginning to resemble the Chinese system of state sponsored enslavement into prison factories.

iwas99x12 karma

Kevin, is a scenario like from the movie "Taken" where tourists in Europe are kidnapped and made sex slaves what really happens?

KevinBales38 karma

No, not really. I suppose that may happen rarely, but it would be the tiniest fraction of the tiniest fraction of any slavery - now ... if we COULD just make sure that every person in slavery has a father who is a rogue CIA agent with tons of money and gadgets then maybe we could stop slavery next week (kidding!).

MacroCyclo11 karma

Hi Kevin, I was curious what your thoughts were on wage slavery. Many low skill workers are more or less slaves in order to keep the lights on and food on the table. How do you define slavery? Thanks!

KevinBales52 karma

Slavery is the complete control of one person by another, violence is used to maintain that control and ensure continued exploitation, a slave cannot walk away even into a worse situation. So, the many people in hard poorly paid jobs are not slaves. This will sound harsh, but you're not a slave if you can quit and walk away even into a worse situation. This is not to say that the billions of people in that poverty are not a serious problem that deserves more attention and they need better lives, they're just not slaves.

iwas99x10 karma

Kevin, what are ways people try break free of slavery?

KevinBales17 karma

Pretty much any way that you can imagine - from escape to resistance, but we know that some ways, like community organising and action, can be really powerful.

silasgreenfront10 karma

In discussion about the history of slavery in the US it is often pointed out that many economists contend that slavery is economically a poor model even when the moral problems are ignored. Do you think this is true? If so, why does slavery persist?

KevinBales17 karma

In the 1970/80s there was a big debate about the profitability of slavery in the US, and the upshot seemed to be that it was relatively profitable. Of course, that is just one type of slavery in one place at one point in history - if you look across the last 5000 years of history you'll see that it was sometimes profitable and sometimes less so. BUT since the population explosion that began in the 20th century, there has been a larger and larger number of potentially enslavable people in the developing world. This means that there is a glut on the market and the cost of acquiring a slave is much lower than at almost any time in history. That low cost means profits are now much higher in slavery than before - though the 'business' is riskier since it is illegal. So it persists, in part, because it can be very profitable for criminals. There's more about the cost and profits of slavery in my book Disposable People.

odawg219 karma

What about slavery right here in the united states, in the form of for profit incarceration for non violent offenses? This needs to end.

KevinBales19 karma

See above and below - but note there's a lot of other slavery in the USA, agriculture, forced commercial sexual exploitation, domestics who are enslaved, and on and on. Check the book The Slave Next Door: Slavery and Trafficking in America Today.

PillarOfSaltG8 karma

How do you expect to end slavery? No civilization ever completely got rid of it. I just think Slavery is a very vague topic

KevinBales33 karma

You're right only a handful of countries have ever come close to ending slavery in their borders, and some did succeed for a time. But there is nothing "vague" about slavery - it is a real thing, and people whoa re in slavery have no doubt about its forceful reality. Getting rid of it is easier now than before in history because it is such a very small part of the global population and global economy. Have a look at my book Ending Slavery for a more precise plan for eradication.

gelbkatze8 karma

I know this is probably covered in your course, but what do you think would effective way for governments to curb this problem?

KevinBales9 karma

A first step would be to enact some coherent laws, a second would be to allocate sufficient resources. It is a crime that can be tackled, but all countries are putting much less into this than could ever make a dent in it. In the US, they spend every year fighting slavery about the equivalent of what is spent in 2-3 hours in the"war on drugs". We're now getting pretty solid data on the amount of slavery and how to detect, expose, and break it up - but you have to focus on it.

SanderSRB8 karma

Are we also discussing economic slavery here or just plain old colonial-style negro-farming business?

KevinBales28 karma

Slavery is what slavery has always been - the complete control of one person by another with violence being used to enforce that control and enable exploitation. The rule of thumb is 'can this person walk away, even if into a worse situation?' The American form of slavery was just one of a large number of types of slavery, and many many forms of slavery exist today.

iwas99x7 karma

Kevin, what is your favorite beer?

KevinBales9 karma

Brakespear's Henley Special

CMDRJohnCasey7 karma

There's a game, /r/EliteDangerous, in which a future society (the Empire) is based on slavery (in particular, debt slavery), roughly inspired by the ancient Roman society. Usually people roleplay justifying their support to the Empire by the fact that these slaves live better than poor people in a capitalist society. Do you think that this is a "realistic" situation, or in other words, are there some realities in which slaves are considered to be "privileged"?

KevinBales21 karma

I've never seen it, and I've met a lot of people in slavery around the world. I've never met a slave or ex-slave who ever felt their life was better in slavery. But I have met slaveholders who spout this same rationalisation. Check out Austin Choi-Fotzpatrick's brand new book What Slaveholders Think - fascinating!

iwas99x6 karma

Kevin, are there effort to make University/college classes similar to yours in the USA and across Europe(and other continents too)?

KevinBales10 karma

There are certainly more individual classes, but I don't know of any other degree programs - but note that our new MA is ONLINE, so you can do it from anywhere, and the short face-to-face teaching component will also be offered on different continents after the first year (assuming demand!).

rocked_licker5 karma

Kevin: I work for a county and manage the landfills, we sometimes utilize prison work to help clean up the landfills, it is through the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, we pay around $250 for 6 hours of work utilizing 10 inmates and a fire sergeant that watches over the work.

In your opinion are we utilizing modern day slave labor?

KevinBales7 karma

I'd want to know more, but just based in what you say, probably not.

iwas99x5 karma

Do you prefer Redditors call you Kevin or Mr.Bales?

KevinBales11 karma

Please call me Kevin!

Slowsociopath4 karma

Are you counting indentured servitude as slavery?

KevinBales23 karma

There's not really anything like indentured servitude anymore. An indenture was a contract that said 'I will give you control over me and my work for the next X years, in exchange for food and lodging and maybe travel' (that's how my ancestors came to America back before the revolution). The closest thing today is signing a contract to join the military - you lock down for a period of time and they provide sustenance. Now, it IS true that in the past (or today) this kind of servitude agreement can be turned into slavery through trickery or force.

iwas99x4 karma

Mr. Bales why don't your twitter and future learn dot com links work at moment?

KevinBales9 karma

Hmm, thought they were up - here's the futurelearn MOOC link: https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/slavery, I just opened it now.

semi-bro4 karma

If you do end slavery won't you be out of a job?

KevinBales22 karma

That would be great! Sometimes I think about other things/issues I'd like to do or work on if we could jut get this slavery thing sorted!

TryhardPantiesON4 karma

Maybe unrelated to contemporary slavery, but do you ever get annoyed that most people knows about black slavery and slavery of jews during NAZI Germany, but those same people failt to acknowledge that other races such as white, arabs, muslims, or pretty much any other race have been slaves at one point in history?

KevinBales5 karma

No that doesn't annoy me. People know recent history much better than distant history, and people know histories that touch on their own families better than people know histories of people far away. I don't expect everyone to know Vikings were BIG slaveholders, or that Rome ran on slaves the way the US runs on oil - but I do hope people will learn about slavery in their own day and their own backyard.

bahnmiagain3 karma

When you say "slavery" I picture people working in some crop or a stone or salt mine or something. Do you equate slavery with "trafficking"? I.e. Girl answers ad for restaurant worker far away, ends up being a prostitution gig? Or is it literal "Hebrews in Egypt" kind of stuff?

KevinBales5 karma

It's all of the above. There are still people being enslaved in crops and mines, and trafficking (which is a mechanism or conduit by which someone is taken into slavery) is also part of the picture - including trafficking and enslavement into forced commercial sexual exploitation.

Nomad_From_The_Horn3 karma

Kevin, first and foremost thank you for doing this. My question is, have you heard about Saudi Arabian employers recruiting migrant workers under false pretenses and then enslaving them?


edit: grammar

KevinBales3 karma

Yes, this is pretty common - and not just in Saudi, but around the world. The Gulf States do have a seriously poor record in this, and resist letting anyone come and investigate or help people caught up in slavery.

QuantumCatBox3 karma

Prof. Bales,

Thanks for doing the AMA. This is the first time I have heard of your organization and I have some questions regarding the methodology of your index. In looking through the Global Slavery Index website I am not able to find a definition of what constitutes "modern slavery," which is the term generally used on the site. The International Labor Organization, in their 2012 report estimated 21 million people as victims of "forced labour." I assume "modern slavery" is a broader term than "forced labour" and I was hoping you could expand on how they differ. Additionally, do you worry at all that the "modern slavery" conception may be so broad that it might improperly stigmatize countries attempting to address the problem, or overwhelm potential donors?

On the website's "methodology" section the following is written as an answer to how the index measured "prevalence":

Measuring the number of people in modern slavery is a difficult undertaking due to the hidden nature of this crime and low levels of victim identification. Since 2014, we have conducted 25 surveys with Gallup Inc.[1] through their World Poll, interviewing more than 28,000 respondents in 52 languages. This year we also conducted state-level surveys in India. When these are included, we have interviewed more than 42,000 respondents in 53 different languages. The prevalence estimates in the Index are based on data from these surveys, the results of which have been extrapolated to countries with an equivalent risk profile.

While the focus of this seems to be on languages, I am curious as to how many different countries you were able to get data from. What type of extrapolations, assumptions, and estimates are made in claiming that 167 countries have been measured? Do you have any concerns regarding bias in the estimates?

I have no doubt that measuring something like slavery is an extremely difficult task and I ask these questions from a position of methodological interest, as opposed to just blanket criticism. Thanks for reading this questions and possibly answering it.

KevinBales7 karma

Very happy to answer it - these are good questions. There are longer answers, so let me first point to the more detailed Methods paper available on the Global Slavery Index website (along with the data - we believe strongly in data transparency and replication!). Here are some citations that will give you more depth and answer some of your questions:

“Modern Slavery: A global reckoning” Significance (journal of the Royal Statistical Society), (October, 2015) with Jacqui Joudo Larsen Monti Datta and Kevin Bales.

“Modern Slavery in the UK: How many victims?” Significance (journal of the Royal Statistical Society), (June, 2015) Kevin Bales, Olivia Hesketh and Bernard Silverman.

“Slavery in Europe: Part 2, Testing a Predictive Model,” Human Rights Quarterly, 36.2 (May 2014), with Monti Narayan Datta and Kevin Bales.

“Slavery in Europe: Part 1, Estimating the Dark Figure,” Human Rights Quarterly, 35.3 (Nov. 2013), Kevin Bales & Monti Narayan Datta.

Kinzarn3 karma

What about debt slavery? The most subtle form of enslavement

KevinBales13 karma

There are many forms of debt bondage slavery, some of them are hereditary, and it s very common current mechanism of enslavement - but just in case please note I am NOT talking about people with too much credit cards debt.

Recon_by_Fire3 karma

Obama said in his 2008 campaign that if he won it would be the end of slavery. What are you still doing?

KevinBales8 karma

I don't remember that! Obama did some really great work on modern slavery, a huge improvement over the previous administration. But no US president can control the whole world (even if they think they can). So slavery still rolls, while the global antislavery movement grows.

akamustacherides3 karma

Mr. Bales do you know a way for individuals to get involved without dipping into their wallets? I spent five years in the Navy, from personal experience I know I ran into slaves while abroad. Unfortunately, friends and myself might have participated in exploitation of some enslaved women. This was the early 90s and my early 20s, we knew nothing about human trafficking and as I become more educated the more terrible I feel. Thank you for ant advice.

KevinBales8 karma

Hi, I appreciate your honesty! (And we all do things in our 20s we wish we hadn't!) But stop feeling terrible and take some action - read and watch and study so you know more about the issue and can help others to know about it. I don't know where you live, but there could be group working on trafficking/slavery near you. Volunteer a little, and send those emails to politicians (based on your new knowledge from studying) asking why they are doing more. Good luck!

iwas99x3 karma

Kevin, what are your hobbies outside of work?

KevinBales5 karma

Love to get in my kayak and paddle into nature....

IAMA_Drunk_Armadillo2 karma

It absolutely sickens me that in 2017 slavery still exists. What in your opinion would have the most impact on ending it? It's one of those issues that very quickly gets overwhelming and disheartening, whether it's IS and Yazidi sex slave markets, or African mining slaves. On top of human trafficking and sex slavery in America.

KevinBales5 karma

More financial resources and more human resources - the good news is that we do know how to find and end many different types of slavery, but we don't have the money to scale-up to the size of problem. Check my book Ending Slavery for a more complete explanation.

NoelTrotsky2 karma

There are so many women leaving the Philippines to do household work around the world it is shocking. They end up in places like Yemen and get their passports taken away and treated like slaves. They take these jobs knowing the huge risks involved and the very hard work they will be given because they have to feed their families and have literally no other choice.

Wouldn't it be better for the West to allow them to come work in North America and Europe for similarly low wages? At least they could expect better employment conditions. It seems that by having strict minimum wages the West is unintentionally steering this desperation to places with very poor working conditions.

KevinBales4 karma

You may well know more about women from the Philippines that I do, and you are certainly correct that migrant workers (from many countries) are victimised in slavery. I very much respect the work of Arlie Hochschild in this area - especially how she showed that so many women are doing child-care in foreign countries to earn money to support their own children. But I am not sure that lowering wages would help.

decompyler2 karma

Is not taxation a form of slavery?

KevinBales3 karma


iwas99x2 karma

Kevin, how often are you on Reddit and what are your favorite subreddits?

KevinBales8 karma

Erh, ah, I have to admit this is my first time on reddit!

_Ghost_Void_2 karma

I've heard that there is more slaves today in Africa than there ever was in colonial America? Online it's hard to find articles or studies that deny or confirm this statistic, but they all seem to agree there is a great number of slaves currently there. Have you heard or read anything about this?

KevinBales2 karma

This is something of a red herring statistic, it doesn't take account of the growth in the global population. For example, you could say there are FOUR times more slaves in India today than in Colonial America - that's true, but so what? There are also four times more people in the city of Tokyo than slaves in Colonial America.

Flashmax3052 karma

I assume you have a phd, what did you write your dissertation on? Did it influence what you teach today?

KevinBales5 karma

My PhD was on the history of social statistics and how they were used to bring about social change (and Charles Booth in particular) - and yes, my work and teaching before the PhD and after has normally been about using social research to confront human rights issues.

HeyLookitMe2 karma

how do you see the way the american penal system is being used to basically replace slave labor in this country?

KevinBales6 karma

This question is coming up many times - please look along the thread for several answers I've given....

allthisjusttocomment2 karma

Is there anyway I can free a slave? I always wanted to be able to buy a slaves freedom. Can this be done?

KevinBales3 karma

You can't and shouldn't buy slaves to free them - that just puts money into the pockets of slaveholders and continues the slavery system BUT there are groups you can support that use your money to free slaves directly - one of the best is Voices4Freedom.

r4f4marques2 karma

Do you have an opinion on the possible changes to the brazillian labour law being voted on the Senate soon?

KevinBales2 karma

From what I've read it is dangerous and a move in the wrong direction. Brazil has been leading the world in antislavery policies in many ways (the mobile squads, the mobile labour judges, the dirty list) it breaks my heart to see this return to the past.

asteroidboy20111 karma

In what countries is slavery still a thing?

KevinBales2 karma

Check the Global Slavery Index - but the basic answer is: all countries, they all have slavery, some more some less.

bankingontanking1 karma

By doing this AMA are you not a "slave" to us?

Like Platos discusses in "The Peoples Republic" are we not a slave to physical reality no matter what, hence never being able to break free from a slave/master relationship? How can one "end" slavery when we are slaves to food and water?

KevinBales6 karma

It's interesting how only in the modern moment does a question like this come up - 100 years ago everyone knew what slavery looked like and it was very rare that anyone wanted to conflate slavery with something else (like being a slave to TV or shopping). You can use the word to describe something else if you want to, but it's not very useful. It's like saying this football team 'murdered' that team. Food and water don't have complete control over us the way a slaveholder would. We can freely choose to starve (as hunger-strikers do).

TheHouseofOne1 karma

Does this AMA feel scripted?

KevinBales5 karma

Not to me! I'm typing as fast as I can, but it is true that I have been asked some of these questions before...

xHarryxx0 karma

What are your favourite artists / groups (music) and why??

KevinBales2 karma

I'm pretty eclectic - Oumou Sangere for example, and other music from Mali I love, but also classical music, and all kinds of funk (I grew up on James Brown) like Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. Policia I like, and this morning I was running to Sean Kuti's new album

ButteLaRose0 karma

Is it just me, or are 90% of the questions being answered coming from the same user?

KevinBales3 karma

I'm in the UK, so it's my afternoon, but when we started it was pretty early in the morning in North America, and there was one person who was up early and asked several questions in a row. I think he was trying to keep me from feeling lonely!