10 Examples of Modern-Day Slavery

20 October 2020

The 21st Century Has Its Own Different Versions of Slavery.

You might catch yourself thinking that you “work in slavery,” but at the end of this article you will know that nothing could be further from the truth.

Slavery is alive and well, and it’s not confined to far off sweat shops in South East Asia, it’s a lot more entwined in western society and much closer to home. 40 million people are estimated to be trapped in slavery in the world today.  1 in 4 are children, and 3 quarters of them are women and girls.

We love luxury at Alux, but we also believe in fair treatment of all and a balanced knowledge of what is going on in the world. So, we decided to look into the forms of modern slavery that are going on around us today so that we can avoid supporting it.

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With that gate opened, let’s check out the 10 examples of modern slavery.


Forced Labour

Forced labour is the situation where people are forced to work against their will and there is a threat of punishment. This situation can be in terms of commercial labour but also conducted by the government or ruling party of a country. Anti-Slavery International (ASI) reports this as common in industries where there isn’t good regulation, like domestic work, fishing, prostitution and agriculture and fishing.

Uzbekistan has one of the largest violations of this kind of labour in the world. Every year in Autumn the government forces one million people to leave their regular jobs to pick cotton. Even children are taken out of school to harvest. They are threatened and forced to work.


Human Trafficking

Forget Liam Neeson type characters being on a mission to save you from human trafficking, he was only concerned with his own daughter and “she safe now”. Human trafficking is happening in front of your very eyes. Human trafficking – when people are taken against their will to another location, not necessarily across a border.  There is often a recruitment phase, something people signed on for, but then when in the hands of the captors they are exploited using violence, coercion or deception and forced to work.

This isn’t the same as people smuggling, once the person arrives at the location they are generally freed. In the case of Human Trafficking, the person moves locations so they can be exploited, and don’t have the freedom to move and work at their own will.

Once people have been trafficked, they are in bondage to their captor and forced into criminal acts, organ harvesting, sex-work, hard labour or marriage.


Debt Bondage

In its basic form, debt bondage is working to pay off debt. It’s called bonded labour or debt slavery, and often the debt is never paid off, making that person a slave for the rest of their life.

The work is often brutal and there is no protection for labourers.

This kind of slavery is prevalent in places like India and Pakistan, where people, trapped in poverty, borrow money to survive and end up having to work a lifetime to pay it off. Invariably, the hours worked compared to the loan is always in favour of the employer.

Debt bondage is the most common modern-day form of slavery and the International Labour Organization estimates there are around 21-million people working under forced labour. As Latin writer, Publilius Syrus once rightly quoted, “Debt is the slavery of the free.”


Child Slavery/Labour

Aluxers, it’s important to know the difference between child slavery and child labour. Child labour is harmful to children because it keeps them from getting an education, and hinders development, but generally speaking the child will take home a measly sum of money to try and support his or her family.

Here are some figures of child labour that you should know:

In the fashion industry, 168-million children  are forced to work globally.

73-million children work in hazardous labour conditions

1 in 5 children in Africa are child labourers

The general age of child labourers is between 5 and 11-years old

71% of child labourers work in the agricultural industry

We got these stats from stopchildlabor.org

Child slavery, on the other hand, is when the child is used purely for someone else’s gain. Cases would include prostitution, pornography, dealing in drugs, stealing, or forced begging. It includes children going to fight in the military, child trafficking, child marriage and forced domestic slavery.


Forced Marriage

The US State Department defines forced marriage as “a marriage without the consent of at least one party.” These marriages often happen out of duress or threats of death or abuse on themselves or family members. Often forced marriage has cultural roots, but there needs to be a clear distinction between forced marriage and arranged marriages.

They differ in that more often; an arranged marriage is an agreement by both parties. And again, this isn’t always the case, but on the whole, articles, news reports and psychological findings have brought forward many positives around arranged marriages.

Girlsnotbrides.org explains forced child marriage as the following:

“Child marriage is any formal marriage or informal union where one or both the parties are under 18 years of age.”

They go on to explain that 12 million girls are married each year before they turn 18. Aluxers, that’s 23 girls every single minute of each day.

Child marriage happens across cultures, countries and religions and is fuelled by gender inequality, traditions, poverty and insecurity.

India is said to have the highest number of child brides in the world, with over 15-million women aged between 20 and 24 having married as children. Bangladesh currently has 4.5 million women that were married as children, and Nigeria and Brazil follow with 3 million married before they turned 18.


Domestic Servitude

On the surface, you wouldn’t be aware if your neighbour was keeping a servant against their will. This form of modern-day slavery is rife and it’s a difficult one to manage.

Domestic servitude takes the form of live-in domestic workers, nannies, butlers, drivers or gardeners. They are the people you don’t notice, they’re invisible.

These stories are common. Many immigrants come into a country desperate for work, and they get employed by wealthy families who end up abusing them, not paying them, and threatening to have them deported.

NY Couple Varsha Mahender Sabhnani and Mahender Murlidhar Sabhnani were convicted of harbouring illegal residents, forced labour and what prosecutors called a “case of modern-day slavery.”

A similar situation took place in Georgia where a resident managed to lure 2 Nigerian women to the states to look after her children. She didn’t pay the women, didn’t feed them properly and threatened their lives if they tried to leave and return home.

Aluxers, domestic servitude is real, so be vigilant of those around you. You never know when someone needs your help.


Fast Fashion

Aluxers, it’s up to you and me to start making ethical fashion choices, because here are some stats that are going to horrify you.

In the Global Garment Industry Factsheet compiled by Lina Stotz & Gillian Kane, they state that up to 75-million people are employed in the textile, clothing and shoe industry.

Let’s use H&M as an example. An H&M executive salary is roughly $210 000 a year. Now, let’s go back to basics and analyze what the cotton picker is earning. If the cotton is being picked in Uzbekistan, the cotton picker earns … NOTHING. Nada. Nil. They are working under forced labour conditions. It improves in India, where cotton pickers earn $2 a day! A day!

In one factory in Cambodia, 200 H&M workers passed out in one week. Poor ventilation, fumes from the chemicals and malnutrition were all blamed. Workers at this factory earn roughly $66 a month!

Employees work 14- 16-hour days, 7 days a week. When it’s peak season, there are extra hours with no extra pay. Health and safety are not a priority, taking decent breaks in between is not a thing and many are not even allowed to take a sip of water while working.

We say it again, it’s up to you and me to start making ethical fashion choices.

Fast Fashion is just one wicked structure, check out the “15 Worst Things People Have Done for Money“.


Descent–Based Slavery

There are a lot of things we don’t mind inheriting from our parents. Perhaps it’s stunning green eyes, or a strong sporty build, but one thing we wouldn’t dream of inheriting is a lifetime of slavery.

However, that’s exactly what descent-based slavery is. A person is born into slavery because their parents and their grandparents were slaves and it’s passed down the maternal line.

This form of slavery is seen across the Sahel belt of Africa, including Mauritania, Niger, Mali, Chad and Sudan. People born under these conditions are in for a lifetime of exploitation and will always remain the property of their employer.

The crazy thing is, people in this position are traded like cattle. They are gifted, sold or left out with nothing when they’re too old or sick to continue working. Women are often sexually assaulted, and should they bear children from a relationship with another slave, their children are taken away from their mom and made to work from a young age.

To escape and begin life again is near impossible, and those that do manage, struggle because they don’t even have a birth certificate to prove who they are. They have no identity and are nameless.

Professor of Contemporary Slavery at the University of Nottingham and co-author of the Global Slavery Index, Kevin Bales quoted the following, “Slavery is theft – theft of a life, theft of work, theft of any property or produce, theft even of the children a slave might have borne. Slavery is an obscenity. It is not just stealing someone’s labor; it is the theft of an entire life.”


Seasonal Farm Workers

This is one that is going to shock you as to how close it is to home. Seasonal fruit picking might seem like a great option to while away a summer after college or between jobs, but the reality for seasonal fruit pickers reliant on the living wage is completely different.

The United Kingdom is one of the regular offenders of exploiting seasonal farm workers.

From 2016 to 2017 the number of modern slavery cases rose by 35%. The farming industry is estimated to be responsible for 10,000 to 13,000 people living in slavery arrangements.

Many eastern European young men are recruited for the service of seasonal fruit picking on fruit farms across the United Kingdom. When they show up to their dream summer job, their worst nightmares unfold.

The workdays can be as long as 15 hours with no breaks, safety gear and terrible work conditions, all for less than the legal minimum wage.

Then the caravan set-ups that they are offered for accommodation are overcrowded, unsafe and unsanitary. Many of these recruits were brought to the UK by licensed gangmasters from their home countries. They demand placement fees from the farmers, and high “commission” from the farm workers.  Failure to pay this “commission” can lead to violence and abuse.

If you didn’t feel this is a raw enough deal, those are the legal recruit’s experience!  Criminal groups also traffic illegal workers from abroad and undercut the already below minimum wages of licensed gangmasters.


Building in Dubai

Another example of modern slavery is the construction industry in Dubai. It has been reported that migrant workers from illiterate and impoverished communities are targeted and convinced by glossy employment opportunities to sign up to work in Dubai.

But when they arrive their passports are taken away and they are forced into slavery work camps and inhumane living conditions.

This system is largely protected under the Kafala system in the Gulf Countries. It basically gives private countries the responsibility and oversight of workers. If workers wish to change jobs, they have to get permission from their employer, who is seldom willing to give it without some form of payoff like docking wages.

This arrangement leaves the employee open to exploitation, at the complete mercy of the employer.The worst part is that the workers’ exit visa is also under the control of their employer. So they are completely stuck in servanthood until the employer lets them leave.


What do you do to avoid supporting companies that support slavery?

What is the worst company you know of, in terms of staff treatment?