slave labor

The slave labor , unfortunately, is a reality for many people in Brazil and worldwide. Data collected by the International Labor Organization (ILO) indicate that there are at least 20.9 million people enslaved, while a survey promoted by the American NGO “ Free the Slaves ” estimates a total of 27 million people working under similar conditions. to slavery in the world . i

There are two ILO labor conventions, one from 1930 and the other from 1957, which aim to regulate working conditions and eradicate slave labor. In Brazil, article 149 of the Brazilian Penal Code defines working conditions analogous to slavery – which include forced labor and degrading working conditions – and provides for punishments for anyone convicted of the practice of enslavement and the enticement of people for forced labor. It is worth mentioning that the UN and the ILO recognize the concept of slave labor provided for in the Brazilian Penal Code.

There is a cycle of slave labor that includes: the misery in which many people find themselves; the enticement of these people with life-changing promises; and work that eliminates the conditions of disconnection between the worker and the boss. This cycle can only be ended with denunciation and inspection.

Therefore, the performance of public bodies, such as the Public Labor Ministry, the Federal Police and civil police, is extremely important, as well as the performance of NGOs against slave labor and in favor of Human Rights. There is also an important role for international organizations, such as the UN and the ILO, to eradicate slavery practices in the world.

Read also : Human Rights: what they are, articles and how they came about

Don’t stop now … There’s more after the publicity;)

Contemporary slave labor cycle

As it is not a legally accepted practice in almost the whole world and is condemned by international organizations, the enslavement of people can be summed up in a cycle that is repeated in most cases. This cycle has six cyclic steps and a single possible exit for it to be closed. The following topics explain better how the slave labor cycle works:

  1. Socioeconomic vulnerability: The victims of contemporary slave labor are people with low income or unemployed , usually with little education, who are looking for a way out of the precarious conditions in which they live. Many of them are in rural areas or in small towns.
  2. Grooming and migration: People called “cats” are responsible for enticing people in situations vulnerable to slave labor. As a conviction, cats promise good pay and good working conditions. Enlisted people are taken away from their places of origin, often even to other countries. These people accumulate, along their trajectory, debts that are impossible to be settled with the salary they will receive from the bosses. The first debt is acquired by the ticket that will take the person to his place of work. Many of the victims are children, and a large proportion, whether children or not, are sexually exploited. In many cases, sexual exploitation occurs without even the victim knowing that she was being taken into prostitution.
  3. Slave labor: Upon reaching their destinations, victims are faced with the real conditions to which they will be subjected. Degrading conditions of work, food and accommodation; acquisition of debts, in addition to the ticket, with tools, food, accommodation; and the retention of documents, until the victims pay off their debts. Along with all these human rights violations, there is low remuneration, which makes it impossible for the debt to be paid.
  4. Escape: In general, there are cases of people who manage to escape from workplaces and criminal bosses who enslave them. These people put their own lives at risk, as there are criminals linked to slave labor and human trafficking (who set up an arsenal) and several foremen to keep victims under control. If the fleeing victims are successful, they can report their situation to the authorities, which takes us to the next point in the cycle.
  5. Inspection and release: Upon receiving a complaint, the Labor Prosecutor’s Office, the Public Prosecutor’s Office, the police or any state authority have a duty to comply with the complaint and investigate what has been reported. This type of inspection is important, as it is what leads to the liberation of victims of slave labor.
  6. Payment of rights: In Brazil, criminals responsible for enslaving people can even suffer prison sentences. In addition to any legal punishment, which may even be mild, the convicted persons must pay compensation for the situation generated to the victim and the payment of retroactive labor rights, such as a minimum wage compatible with the hours worked and with the terms of the labor convention that governs function exercised. Entitlements must also be paid, such as paid holidays, vacation allowances, length of service guarantee fund (FGTS) and thirteenth salary.
  7. Socioeconomic vulnerability: Unfortunately, many victims of slave labor return to their homelands and to the situation of poverty in which they found themselves at the beginning of the cycle, that is: unemployment, low wages, misery, hunger, etc. However, this situation can be reversed with the performance of sectors (governmental or not) that promote the eradication of slave labor or assistance to victims.

Combating slave labor – the end of the cycle

There are three main points that put an end to slave labor. Are they:

  1. Prevention: ithappens through education; promoting information; associativism and cooperativism to generate income within needy communities; income generation in the country; and access to land within rural areas.
  2. Assistance to victims:includes the need for temporary accommodation; the payment of rights through a judicial proceeding or an employment agreement; and professional qualification so that that person does not return to the same state in which he was at the beginning of the cycle.
  3. Repressions:they are still, in many cases, mild for those who are caught keeping workers in condition of slavery in Brazil. Thus, punishment is essential in order to curb this violation of human rights. The repression happens through the financial compensation of the victims; indemnities and payment of rights; and the punishment of criminals, which can include a penalty, under imprisonment, from two to eight years.

Also read : How was the life of ex-slaves after the Golden Law?

Types of slave labor

Forced labor and degrading conditions constitute slavery.

Slave labor, unlike simple infractions against labor laws, can be seen based on the observance of certain common characteristics . Such features include:

  • Forced labor: When the worker, unwilling or no longer wanting to continue in that labor activity in which he finds himself, is forced by his employer through physical force, debt balance, blackmail, or any other factor, he is being enslaved.
  • Exhaustiveworkday: If the worker is subjected to long hours, most of the time unpaid, which do not allow the necessary rest between work hours and endanger his health, he may be in conditions of slavery. There is also often a lack of respect for weekly rest.
  • Debt bondage: When the worker is forced to continue working to settle debts with the employer, he is in conditions of slavery. These debts include, most of the time, passage, accommodation and food, which, even if precarious, are charged an exorbitant amount so that the victim is kept as a slave.
  • Degrading conditions: When the worker is kept in degrading conditions in his work environment, which may include physical and psychological violence, poor housing, insufficient or unhealthy food and water, and lack of medical assistance, he is in a condition of slavery.

Read also : Slavery in the Muslim world

Slave labor in Brazil

In 1995 , Brazil officially assumed the existence of slave labor in its territory before the ILO. Since then, there has been a governmental and state commitment to eradicate this practice. Through the work of public inspection and punishment bodies belonging to the three branches and the work of NGOs , the Brazilian Government has been mapping and combating this practice that attacks the Human Rights of the Brazilian population.

According to a survey by the Ministry of Labor and the Pastoral Land Commission, released by the NGO “Escravo, Nem Pensar!”, More than 52 thousand workers were rescued from slavery between 1995 and 2016 .

Of these, 92% were men ; 22% worked in sugarcane crops , 31% in livestock , 18% in diverse crops , 7% in charcoal cultivation , 5% in forest deforestation , 3% in reforestation , 2% in plant extraction , 1 % in mining ; and, in urban areas, 5% were in civil constructionwhile 1% was in the textile industry . There are still four percentage points for unreported activities.

Of these people, 32% were illiterate and 39% completed, at most, the first phase of elementary school. The Maranhão leads the ranking source of these slave laborers, followed by Bahia , Pará , Minas Gerais and Piauí. ii

Many workers are still in slavery in Brazil. In domestic work, in agricultural activities, in mining, in civil construction or in textile manufacturing, there are still people who suffer from attacks on their rights. It is extremely important that the activities of NGOs and public agencies that work to eradicate slave labor be maintained and financed.

To report cases of slave labor,

just access this link or call the number 158.

Read also: The consolidation of labor laws in Brazil

Where slave labor takes place

  • Rural slave labor: Most slave labor in Brazil, and in countries with a majority of GDP represented by rural activities, comes from the countryside. Workers are part of the body of companies or are maintained by large landowners and large explorers, mainly in agriculture, livestock and mining. It is worth remembering that, in the case of agriculture, those who maintain slave labor are the large agricultural companies linked to agribusiness . Stimulating family farming can be an alternative for reducing rural slave labor.
  • Urban slave labor: Many contemporary slaves, mainly in less developed but industrialized countries, are located in urban areas in countries such as China, India, Bangladesh and Thailand. Slave labor in these places is mainly related to the textile industry and civil construction.


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