Interview with Siddharth Kara, Special to CNN, Part 2

Siddharth Kara is the first Fellow on Human Trafficking at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and the author of the book, Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery. He is also on the advisory board of Nomi Network.

This is part 2 of the interview that was published on August 25, 2010, Nomi Network Advisor on CNN. The interview was conducted on July 1, 2010, just prior to his departure to South Asia to begin field research for his next book, on bonded labor, which is now complete and to be published soon.

You had suggested that there is a fine line in defining what labor trafficking and slavery are, and that it could be as simple as somebody not receiving fair wages all the way to another extreme. Do you feel like you have adequately put some definitions in your work that do a better job at defining categories of slavery, or is that something that you wish to do further?

That’s a really good question. I think I’ve started to do that work, but in my next book or a couple of papers that I am working on, I am really going to take that definition question much further… The line between forced labor and labor exploitation of some extreme kind is very gray. There is a line there obviously, there has to be, but it’s grayer than people treat it. The more you see, the more you see that it is more complex, and even in my own mind, my thinking has evolved across the years. Definitely, in terms of what it is, what it is not, and how many are there--that work I’m going to really advance in my next book.

In your book, you estimated that for the end of 2006, there were 28.4 million slaves in the world. What methodology did you use to come up with that number?

Across ten years I’ve built up a model. It’s a mix of what’s called capture-recapture methodology, plus random statistical sampling. From there, I extrapolate in a way that is defensible and conservative because you can’t identify and quantify every such individual in the world. I take statistical samples in certain ways and that extrapolate in ways that are statistically defensible. So, to summarize: I use random sampling, capture- recapture methodology, followed by extrapolation. My estimate was as of the end-of-year 2006.

Now I look back and my own thinking has evolved. Four years back, it was the best I could come up with. The next time around I will be publishing a confidence interval, which will provide a range of numbers. That means that with a certain level of confidence, usually 95 or 99%, I can say that the number of “blank” in the world is between A and B.

I’ll be doing that next time and from now on. Otherwise, one does an injustice to the gray areas that have been becoming more and more evident to me. We need try and pin-point the things in those gray areas. My end-of-year 2006 estimate was the mean of a confidence interval. But I didn’t get into that in the book. There were already so many charts and graphs in the book. But later I realized that I hadn’t done full justice to my own work or to the complexities of things. I’m going to do that next time, in the bonded labor book, and there will be fewer charts and graphs. It will provide a range and it will include growth rates by category.

The numbers by category are so important. They are not just slaves. There are different kinds. And I have three categories. Others may have a different number of categories. What is in each category, how much, what they contribute to the global economy, what are the various growth rates? All of these things are so important to get a grasp on rather than just use a blanket statement that there are this many slaves in the world and that there have been that many for ten years and that’s that.

Do the three categories correspond with the three books you are writing?

Yes, roughly: bonded labor, forced labor and trafficked slaves. Trafficked slaves are individuals that have been trafficked into a situation of bonded or forced labor, so in a sense there are two categories.

But this new, post- World War phenomenon of a rapid increase in slave trading is worth carving out and running some numbers separately, because it is such a fast growing phenomena as compared to bonded labor which grows at a much slower pace. But there are so many more bonded laborers than any others.

Are you defining slavery by the way the person is being held as not the purpose they are being held for?

No, because one person could be exploited in several ways. Then you double count them. You could have a bonded laborer that works in agriculture, brick making, and carpet weaving, at different times. In fact, I’ve met some. So we can’t say that we have carpet slaves, brick slaves, and agricultural slaves. That seems to miss the boat.

That’s so helpful. For such a long time, I’ve been trying to define slavery by the types, the purpose, for an actual slave, instead of the way in which they are being held.

I think the more effective way to define it is by modality or industry. Any single individual at any given time can be exploited in several different industries. Again, these are people I’ve met. A child slave later becomes a victim of sex trafficking, who then later becomes a victim of forced labor in domestic work. That isn’t three slaves. It is one slave--one forced laborer, who at various points in time inhabited different categories of enslavement with different business models and economics. Each category of enslavement differs in its vulnerabilities and how they work. Each category requires different laws, tactics, and policies.

- Alissa Moore and Stephen M. Bauer


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