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Despite the fact that slavery was formally abolished in the United States over 150 years, the country is still home to over 57,000 slaves. North Korea is home to 1.1 million slaves—4.4% of the population. And India is home to over 18 million slaves (1.4% of the population). Overall, despite the world being more free than ever before in history, there are some 45.8 million people living in slavery. This is according to the Global Slavery Index, who conducted a 2016 study which estimated the prevalence of “modern slavery” in 167 countries across the globe. In addition to prevalence, the study also measured the vulnerability to slavery in each country as well government responses.

When I first encountered this study, I have to admit that I was shocked. I had no idea that there were so many people in the world without the most basic freedoms. So, I decided to create a data visualization and try my best to help bring attention to this appalling problem. I wanted to focus my visualization on two of the three components of the study—prevalence (the number of people living in a state of modern slavery)—and government response (actions governments are taking to help address the problem). Prevalence is measured as a single number of people (and related percentage of the population), so visualizing that would be easy. Government response, however, measured five different key milestones:
  1. Victims Supported to Exit Slavery - Survivors of slavery are supported to exit slavery and empowered to break the cycle of vulnerability. 
  2. Criminal Justice Responses - Effective criminal justice responses are in place in every jurisdiction.
  3. Coordination and Accountability - Governments coordinate and are held accountable for their actions.
  4. Addressing Risk - Laws, policies and programmes address attitudes, social systems and institutions that create vulnerability and enable slavery.
  5. Investigating Supply Chains - Governments stop sourcing goods and services linked to modern slavery.
Within each milestone are a number of different indicators. The Index calculates a percentage of these indicators which have been met, creating a score from 0 to 100 for each milestone.

How to Visualize This?
I struggled a bit with how to visualize this. I wanted to show each country in one compact chart, so that people could get an idea of what’s happening in that country at-a-glance, rather than having separate charts for prevalence and each milestone. As I was thinking about my approach, I kept coming back to a beautiful visualization by Nadieh Bremer on the state of freedom of expression and information.

The visualization uses sized and colored bubbles to show the countries’ scores in each of the five areas of focus. After trying lots of different approaches, I finally came to the conclusion that this would be a really good way to visualize the milestone data.

Before I go any further, let me just say that, yes, I know that bubbles aren’t a great chart type as we cannot accurately measure the precise sizes of bubbles in the same way as, say a bar chart. But, in this case, precision was not as critical as creating a single, compact chart for each country and allowing people to easily compare across different countries. With this in mind, I’ve chosen to break with best practices and create a visualization that is a bit on the “data art” side, while also (hopefully) very insightful.

So, after a lot of time and effort, I’m happy to unveil the final result. Click on the image below to see and interact with the full visualization. You’ll want to check out the “How to Read” section in the top right before diving in as it’s a bit hard to understand otherwise. Also, the visualization has some nice features, such as the ability to change the color palette, change the sort, and to highlight the region. Finally, be sure to scroll to the bottom to and follow the link to the Walk Free Foundation in order to learn more about how you can help to end slavery.

Ken Flerlage, February 17, 2018

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