What are Some Examples of Modern Day Slavery?

What are some examples of Modern Day Slavery?

Examples of modern slavery are wide-ranging. ‘Slavery’ is an umbrella term for when one individual has ownership over another. Modern-day slavery is more subtle.

In modern slavery terms, someone may be a slave if they are:

  1. forced to work through mental or physical threat
  2. owned or controlled by an ’employer’, usually through mental or physical abuse or the threat of abuse
  3. dehumanised, treated as a commodity or bought and sold as ‘property’
  4. physically constrained or have restrictions placed on his/her freedom

The Modern Slavery Act 2015 provides the following definitions within the term ‘modern-slavery’

They are:

  1. ‘slavery’ is where ownership is exercised over a person
  2. ‘servitude’ involves the obligation to provide services imposed by coercion
  3. ‘forced or compulsory labour’ involves work or service extracted from any person under the menace of a penalty and for which the person has not offered himself voluntarily
  4. ‘human trafficking’ concerns arranging or facilitating the travel of another with a view to exploiting them.


Examples of modern slavery

Forced labour

This involves any work which is carried out involuntarily and under threat, either physical or mental. 


Twenty Chinese cockle pickers tragically died in the UK in 2004. Imported illegally via containers into Liverpool, they were then forced to collect cockles at Warton Sands. It was difficult and dangerous work. The Chinese workers were unfamiliar with local geography, language, and custom.


Debt bondage 

Also known as debt slavery or bonded labour, this form of slavery is widespread and involves manipulation over debt. 


A young man has got himself into financial difficulty and borrows money from a local gang. The terms of the loan are not clearly or reasonably stated. He cannot afford it so becomes locked in a situation whereby he loses control over his options. He ends up used and manipulated to work for free and pay back a far greater amount. 


Human trafficking 

This is the trade of humans for forced labour, sexual slavery, or commercial sexual exploitation for the traffickers. It can also involve the harvesting of human organs and tissues. It does not always involve moving people from one place to another but using men, women and children as commodities for the purpose of exploitation.


Two women from Korea are brought to the UK with the promise they will receive jobs as hostesses or waitresses. When they arrive, they are held captive and forced into prostitution, while their captor controls the money they receive.


Descent based slavery 

In some cultures, children born of ancestors who were enslaved, become slaves themselves, by descent. They are born into slavery because their families belong to a class of “slaves” within a society. The status of “slave” passes from mother to child.


In Mauritania, thousands of people are estimated to be in slavery. Born into slavery, they are owned by their masters and remain totally dependent in them. Women are commonly raped. The children born of this abuse then also become slaves. 


Child slavery 

Child slavery is often confused with child labour, but child slavery is much worse. By use of violence and abuse children are used to profit others. This can include prostitution, petty crime, forced labour, armed conflicts and drug smuggling. Child slavery also includes all child marriage and domestic slavery. 


A 12-year-old boy runs away from home. He finds himself on the streets in London. He meets a pimp who encourages him to participate in prostitution. The pimp takes control of all the profits generated.


Forced and early marriage 

Forced marriage is a marriage that is not mutually consensual. In the UK this includes taking someone abroad to force them into marriage and marrying someone who lacks the mental capacity to consent to marriage.


12-year-old Gloria is born into an extremely poor family. After her father dies her family do not have enough money to eat and they are starving. Her mother has no choice but to sell Gloria into a marriage. Gloria’s new 35-year-old husband will pay a small dowry (payment) for the marriage to Gloria’s mother. Gloria quickly becomes pregnant and stops attending education following the marriage. 

Online training

Sadly the abolishment of slavery has not seen it disappear in today’s world. Being able to spot signs and identify instances of modern-day slavery is essential for all individuals and companies, regardless of the industry.

You can view our Modern Slavery online training course here.