Some 35.8 million people are currently trapped in modern-day slavery, forced to pick cotton, grow cannabis and prostitute themselves among other things, a new report says.
The 2014 Global Slavery Index (GSI), in its second annual report, said new methods showed some 20 percent more people were enslaved across the world than originally thought.
"There is an assumption that slavery is an issue from a bygone era. Or that it only exists in countries ravaged by war and poverty," said Andrew Forrest, chairman of Australia’s Walk Free Foundation which produced the report (PDF).
The foundation's definition of modern slavery includes slavery-like practices such as debt bondage, forced marriage and the sale or exploitation of children, as well as human trafficking and forced labor.
The report, which covers 167 countries, said modern slavery contributed to the production of at least 122 goods from 58 countries.
The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates profits (PDF) from this forced labor are $150 billion a year.
The biggest offender, with the highest proportion of its population enslaved, remains the West African nation Mauritania. Mauritania has anti-slavery legislation but it is rarely enforced and a special tribunal set up in March has yet to prosecute any cases, the report said.
Uzbekistan is the second offender on the list because every autumn, the government forces over one million people, including children, to harvest cotton.
Countries like Qatar in the Middle East were a major destination for men and women from Africa and Asia who are lured with promises of well-paid jobs only to find themselves exploited as domestic workers or in the construction industry.
The countries doing the most to combat the problem were the Netherlands, Sweden, the United States, Australia, Switzerland, Ireland, Norway, the United Kingdom, Georgia, and Austria.
Africa faces some of the biggest challenges, the report said, with armed forces and rebel groups from Somalia to the Central African Republic using child soldiers to mineral-rich Zambia, Angola, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo forcing children and adults to "labor in dangerous mines."
The highest numbers of modern slaves were found in India with an estimated 14.29 million enslaved.
However the Index said India had recently taken important steps to combat the problem, strengthening its criminal justice framework through legislative amendments and increasing the number of its Anti-Human Trafficking Police Units.
Al Jazeera and wire services