Debt slavery (also known as Debt Peonage, Bonded Labour or Indentured Servitude) is a condition in which people are forced to work to pay off a debt. This can include working for free or working for very low wages. The debt can be owed to a person, a company, or a government.
In many cases, the person who is caught in debt slavery is not even aware of the exact amount they owe, and they find themselves trapped in a cycle of debt that they can never escape. They are forced to work in order to pay back the debt, but the amount they owe their employer is always going up, no matter how much they work.
This type of slavery occurs in situations where workers are paid very low wages and are required to purchase essential goods and services from their employer at inflated prices. As a result, the workers can never earn enough money to pay off their debt, and they are effectively enslaved.
An Example of Debt Slavery
A perfect example of how debt slavery works in practice is the plight of sharecroppers in feudal Europe or in the US after the civil war.
Sharecroppers were peasants or poor people who rented land from large landholders in order to grow crops. They would then give a portion of their crops to the landholder as rent.
In many cases, the sharecroppers were required to purchase essential supplies, such as seed and tools, from the landholder at inflated prices. As a result, they could never earn enough money to pay off their debt, and they were effectively enslaved.
The Abolition of Debt Slavery
Debt slavery was abolished in most countries in the 19th or early 20th century. However, it still exists in some parts of the world today.
In 2010, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Debt Bondage. This requires ratifying countries to take steps to abolish debt bondage and provide protection for victims.
However, the problem of debt slavery still persists in many parts of the world. In some cases, people are tricked or coerced into taking out loans that they cannot repay. In other cases, people are born into debt and can never escape it.
Bonded Labour – A type of debt slavery in which a person is required to work for free or for very low wages in order to repay a debt.
Human Trafficking – The illegal trade of humans, typically for the purpose of forced labour or sexual exploitation.
Forced Labour – Work that is done against a person’s will, under the threat of violence or other punishment.
Slave Labour – Work that is done by slaves. Slave labour is typically characterized by long hours, dangerous working conditions, and little or no pay.
Glossary Terms starting with D
- Debt Slavery – Entrapping Workers in a Cycle of Unpayable Debt
- Democracy – When all Citizens have an Equal Vote
- Demography – A Branch of Sociology that studies Human Populations
- Despotism – A Single Ruler who has Absolute Power
- Development – The process of Economic, Social and Cultural change
- Developmental Cycle of the Domestic Group – How Groups Change and Adapt Over Time
- Dialect – A Variety of a Language that has its own unique features
- Dialectic Reasoning – A Debate that Leads to a Conclusion
- Discrimination – Treating People Differently based on their Race, Gender or Other Characteristics
- Divination – Gaining Information through Supernatural Means
- Division of Labour – Assigning Tasks in such a way as to Enable Specialisation
- Domestic Mode of Production – Producing Goods for the Family
- Duolocal Residence – When Husband and Wife Live Separately
- Durkheim, Émile: The Father of Sociology and His Contributions to Anthropology
- Dowry – A Form of Marriage Payment
- Dynasty – A Line of Hereditary Rulers
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