If I told you that I have 34 slaves working for me, you would be rightly shocked. “What a hypocrite”, you might well say, “Fancy writing all those blogs about justice and compassion and yet using slave labour to support his life-style!”.
I have just typed in some personal deals into a survey by slaveryfootprint.org. The computer makes some assumptions on the products I buy and came up with an astonishing figure of 34 slaves being involved in the manufacture. Christine and I are a semi-retired couple, living in an average house, sharing a car, living on an around average UK Income. With different parameters you may find that you ’employ’ 100+ slaves.
Bonded labour is the most common method of enslaving people around the world. A person becomes a bonded labourer when their labour is demanded to repay a loan. The person is then trapped into working for very little or no pay, often for seven days a week. Interest makes it impossible to pay the loan off and often debts are passed on to next generation.
They are forced to work to repay debts their employer says they owe, and they are not allowed to work for anyone else. Various forms of force are used to make sure they stay. In many cases they are kept under surveillance, sometimes under lock and key. Poverty and the threats of violence force many bonded labourers to stay with their masters, since they would not otherwise be able to eat or have a place to sleep.
Today the International Labour Organisation estimates a minimum 11.7 million people are in forced labour in the Asia-Pacific region, the majority of these are in debt bondage.
Bonded labour has existed for hundreds of years. It was used to trap labourers into working on plantations in Africa and the Caribbean – after the abolition of the Transatlantic Slave Trade.
In South Asia it is rooted in the caste system and predominately affects Dalits (the lowest caste called Untouchables) and still flourishes in agriculture, brick kilns, mills and factories. In the Punjab region of India hundreds of thousands of men, women and children are forced to work as bonded labourers in quarries and brick kilns where they receive little or no pay in return for a loan typically used for survival.