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What is Bonded Labor?

By Ken Black
Updated May 23, 2024
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Bonded labor is a form of debt slavery that is created when an individual begins to work for another person who holds a debt from that worker. It is also known as debt slavery. Once a bonded labor situation has been created, some individuals find it impossible to ever break out of it.

Bonded labor begins when an individual goes to another individual to borrow money and agrees to work in exchange for the money. Often, the person will be required to live on the property so that the debt holder can keep track of their whereabouts. It is also common for all members of an immediate family to share in debt bondage situation. That means that even though some of those enslaved did not borrow the money, they are still serving as slaves.

The purpose of bonded labor for the individual holding the debt is to get a cheap source of labor. In most cases, the terms are so unfavorable to the slave or indentured servant that getting out will take most of their lives, if it can even be done at all. In most situations, if the slave dies before the debt is repaid, the rest of the family will still have to continue working for the debt holder until the debt is determined to have been paid off.

In some cases, those who are serving a debt holder in a bonded labor situation may seek to borrow money for other things as well. This further increases the debt and gives the debt holder even more power. In the end, the goal is to create a person who feels that the debt holder is their only source of hope in the world.

A person enslaved in a bonded labor situation may receive some money for their efforts, but this is just a token payment. In most cases, it is understood that the true value of their work is going to pay for the debt they owe. In practice, the true value of their work is never paid or fully counted toward the debt.

Further, the conditions under which indentured servants work can be very harsh. Some have reported working 13 hours or longer during a normal day. Many may be crowded into very small living conditions. If they marry, their spouses also become slaves to the debt holder. Work may include domestic chores, farm work, industrial work or even working underground in the sex trade.

While the practice of bonded labor, also spelled bonded labour in Great Britain, is still taking place in many areas throughout the world, it is illegal in most countries. Some jurisdictions may choose to not enforce the laws on the books. Others may have a hard time proving the situation in court. Therefore, even where it is illegal, it is able to thrive.

CulturalWorld.org is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon184416 — On Jun 08, 2011

this is horrible. i think this should end.

By anon156411 — On Feb 27, 2011

The website has got a lot of informative stuff about inhuman ways of slavery.

By anon139818 — On Jan 05, 2011

It helped with my summary for English and now I know more about it.

By anon69646 — On Mar 09, 2010

I think this site is very good because it gives me all answers to most questions that boggle my mind.

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