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Apr 9, 2018

In Episode 6 we talk modern slavery statistics and the challenges that face those trying to get to the hard facts about the issue. Our guest is  Sir Bernard Silverman, a mathematician and statistician who produced the first scientific estimate of the number of modern slaves in the United Kingdom.

 00.00 - 04.10 

  • Todd begins asking Sir Bernard about the difficulties in researching "hard to find populations” such as the victims of modern slavery, and in particular the issues of sampling and bias when drawing inferences from such difficult to obtain data.
  • Sir Bernard agrees and suggests that the only way to avoid errors is to construct mathematical models and construct a sampling methodology to describe the data. He explains that classical sampling methods are not applicable to the victims of modern slavery
  • Todd points out that the only way to identify victims is if they come forward to the National Crime Agency and/or other referral mechanisms, to create different " convenience samples"

 04.10 - 08.20 

  • Sir Bernard mentions similar work carried out in Kosovo on the difficulties of estimating the number of deaths as a result of the conflict in the Former Yugoslavia
  • Todd suggests that in this and similar instances the focus was on the number of dead bodies and was relatively easy to count whereas modern slavery is much harder to define and thus counting the numbers involved is much more complex
  • Sir Bernard agrees adding that counting the number of dead has a lower margin for error - with no clear definition of modern slavery, there will be greater uncertainty about arriving at a total number of modern slaves

 08.20 - 12.41 

  • Todd asks Bernard about the estimate of modern slavery victims in the UK and how it compares with the rest of the world
  • Bernard answers that the quoted numbers (10,000 - 13,000) for the UK are probably under-estimation but says the number is large and should concentrate the minds of politicians, the police and the public
  • World wide the UK ranks towards the bottom in terms of the risk factors that lead people into slavery
  • Todd develops this theme by comparing slavery estimates for India and Luxembourg in terms of absolute numbers and the percentage of the population, in particular the estimate of 100 for Luxembourg, a number which may not quite capture the fact that .work-xbased commuting may actual double the population for Luxembourg and by inference the number of possible slaves.
  • Sir Bernard adds the caveat that it is an estimate based on comparisons with neighbouring countries, not a fully accurate number
  • Sir Bernard argues that the recent legislation makes the UK increasingly hostile to modern slavery in comparison with other countries

 12.41 - 15.26 

  • Todd turns to discuss government spending and asks what level of priority is given to modern slavery in comparison with other forms of crime
  • In Sir Bernard's view the focus is less about budget allocations and more about agenda setting for the police and awareness raising for the public, NGO's and academics

 15.26- 18.59

  • Todd asks how can proxy measures be use to indicate the prevalence of slavery
  • Sir Bernard lists the following possibilities:
  1. Suspect bank accounts
  2. Very cheap services e.g. low cost car washes
  3. Individuals offering the same service in different locations
  4. Suspicious financial transactions
  5. Suspicious patterns of personal behaviour
  • The development of reliable proxy measures is in its infancy - extrapolating from proxy measures to reliable numerical estimates is not easy
  • Looking for change in reliable proxy measures may well be better indicators of the effectiveness of anti-slavery measures

 18.59 - end

  • Todd asks whether there is away that Big Data techniques can be used to enhance proxy measures
  • In reply Sir Bernard suggests undertaking textual analysis on company policy statements on supply chains. Larger textual analysis would need to focus on specific sectors and investigators will need to know in advance what they are looking for.

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