Wage Slavery, and Child Labor in Modern India

Bonded labor is the most widespread form of slavery in India. India has the highest number of wage slaves, with around 19.5 million working for free in fields, brick kilns, rice mills, and brothels. Millions of children are working as housekeepers to pay off debts with shady employers and loan sharks. With “The Indian Slavery Act of 1843,” or “Act-V 1843,” under “British India,” Lord Ellenborough put an end to slavery in India. Modern India has strict labor laws, but the labor ministry didn’t do enough to stop child labor and wage slavery. Modern India has strict labor laws, but the labor ministry didn’t do enough to stop child labor and wage slavery.

In 2011, India’s Census found that there were about 150k cases of forced labor, most of which were in Madhya Pradesh. Instead of improving these bonded laborers’ situation, it’s worsening day by day. The above data on modern bonded labor indicates that 20% or more Indians are not getting paid what they deserve. Many people are forced to work for wages that are lower than the national labor average.

Definition of wage slavery

Wage slavery, or “slave wages,” refers to people who depend on wages to make a living. Wage slavers get paid very little, and their treatment and living conditions are bad, without a chance for growth. The Lowell Mill Girls used the word “wage slavery” to characterize an intolerable situation. “We were not put on this planet to be bossed around; that was their position, which they accepted.”
Bonded laborers deny facts and the existence of wage slavery. Fearing that if the practice of bonded labor ended, they would have to pay full wages.

Survey on Conditions of Poor Men, Women, and Child Labors in India

I constructed a five-question survey to find out what it’s really like for poor men, women, and children to work. I asked five questions (verbally) from laborers (unskilled women and kids) if they were:

(a) get paid on time,

(b) get bonuses,

(c) get full pay,

(d) get a mandatory weekly day off with pay, and

(e) work for only 8 hours a day in Amritsar, Chandigarh, and Delhi.

Survey Result

The people who replied to these questions were working as security guards, domestic workers, helpers, sweepers, and domestic cooks. Results showed that the majority of respondents worked 12–13 hours a day. Their wages are not on time, and they do not get paid for sick leave.

Now if we ask the same question of government and private sector workers, what will be their answers? Are these people not getting paid on time and getting paid for sick leave? Well, yes, conditions are not the same for structured and unstructured workers.

Actions to End Wage Slavery

  • Spreading awareness to end wage slavery and child labor.
  • Helping bonded laborers pay their debt with interest-free loans can save them from evil moneylenders.
  • What can we do to prevent such a practice? We should think about this social injustice and ask the government and officers to act strictly.
  • Do you know someone who doesn’t pay their domestic servant on time and forces them to do extra work? If yes, please ask these people: What will they do if they are wage slaves? Would they like such treatment? We can request that neighbors and relatives not exploit poor people.
  • The higher unemployment rate is not our issue, but being a law-abiding citizen and still not paying the minimum wage is.
  • We can help poor people get educated about their rights and labor laws and seek legal help when they need it.

Summary:

Due to corruption and bad law and order, India still has the most slaves and child laborers in the world. Education is the biggest weapon we can equip the poor with to fight against all evil and exploitation. It’s also noted that people can guide laborers to send their children to affordable schools. From here, we must pay them their full wages on time and give them “one paid day” per week. This is how the community can help these people and prevent child labor and bonded labor.

Please note: This article was first published on LinkedIn.com under our newsletter, “MindGlass: Psychology in Practice,” and later republished here.


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Bonded labor is the most widespread form of slavery in India. India has the highest number of wage slaves, with around 19.5 million working for free in fields, brick kilns, rice mills, and brothels. Millions of children are working as housekeepers…

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