(In)Direct Slavery: We’re All Guilty

Pivotfarm's picture

As we sit in our comfortable living rooms, loafing back into our sofas, munching on a bar of chocolate and slurping down the coffee whilst checking the smartphone for message most of us have little idea that the chocolate, the coffee and the smartphone were made by resorting to indirect slavery quite probably. Whether we like it or not, we are contributing to the indirect slave trade of the companies that provide those things and many more to us. Whether we like it or not we are directly contributing to slavery because there are slaves employed in our own back yard still today.

Global Slavery Figures

  • There are 29.8 million slaves in the world.
  • They mostly work in developing and emerging countries producing goods that are destined for the Western world and our own markets.
  • Those 29.8 million people account for 1.82% of world population today.
  • India is the worst country in the world for the total number of slaves.
  • There are 14 million of them.
  • China comes in way behind and in second place with 2.9 million of them.
  • Pakistan has 2.1 million slaves.
  • Mauritania has the highest ratio of slaves to the population.
  • The total population stands at 3.4 million and 4.3% are enslaved people.

The top ten countries that make up 76% of all of the enslaved people in the world are:

  • India
  • China
  • Pakistan
  • Nigeria
  • Ethiopia
  • Russia
  • Thailand
  • Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Myanmar
  • Bangladesh

The USA is 139th on the list out of a total of 162. The UK is 160th.

India is the worst country in the world for slavery today. Perhaps if they were to ratify the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, then they might be able to deal with that problem. Bonded labor might have been outlawed as from 1976by the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act 1976, but it has rarely been enforced.

But there are slaves working in the Western world too such as the forced laborers that are made to work on the cannabis farms in the UK. For the first time, the Global Slavery Index has been published this year and it is a telling story of the misery not only of the developing world, but of our own countries. It’s a quantitative index of 162 countries which means that it accounts for almost the entire world population. . Until this report was published estimates stood only at roughly 10 million under the 29.8-million estimate of the Global Slavery Index. Previously, the method of calculation did not include forced labor and did not consider that human trafficking was part of slavery. The Index also uses forced servile marriage and debt bondage in the calculation.

The Global Slavery Index estimates that there is a margin of error of between 5% and 10% and they hope that it will be a “wake-up call” to governments around the world. It is however highly unlikely that this will become reality.Governments in the West remain complacently asleep when it comes to slavery in their own back yards and certainly even more so with other countries that are toiling away for us.

Endemic cultural problems have maintained people entrapped in slavery in countries like India due to caste issues (despite that officially having been abolished (at least Article 17 of the Indian Constitution made untouchability and discrimination on that basis illegal).

Maybe some leaves should be taken out of Brazil’s book and we should be doing more of what they do there. There is a list of ‘dirty’ companies that have used slaves in the production of products. Their national plan is to do away with slavery.

Slavery is not just a figment of our imagination, it means jobs that we can’t walk away from, it’s working for nothing and it’s control through violence and pressure as well as being nothing more than the boss’s property.

We’re All Slaves

To some extent we are all slaves in daily life in the societies that have been elaborated for the benefit of those either at the top or even for those at the bottom. There’s rarely something for those that are stuck in the middle. We go to work, we earn a living and we pay that money to someone else in taxation so that it can go to the common good of all in society under the supreme principle of providing for the needy, whoever they are and whatever being needy really does mean.

But, we work like drudges even though the 19th century sweatshops went long ago from our societies; at least, for most of us, although they still exist in some back room of a dingy apartment building somewhere in the rough part of towns of most cities we live in. We created democracy (or we thought we did) and the upper class was reduced (or the wealth just got spread around with fewer people allowed to rake it in). The poorer got richer and the majority got thrown into the middle band of the class that got little or nothing. Democracy created what we have right now. The few rich people get most of the earnings and the poorest get doled out and propped up. The guys in the middle pay for the rest and get their shoulders thrown into the grindstone, regardless of whether they want their money to be handed around to the needy or to fill the cash-fat obese accounts of the super wealthy in Geneva or somewhere else.

We have all a role to play in the slave trade. But, there are some that are worse off than others in countries around the world.

Which is better: being a slave in India or being a middle-class slave that finances the government through taxation? A no-brainer? Or, does it depend on where we're sitting?


Originally posted: (In)Direct Slavery: We’re All Guilty


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reader2010's picture

Karl Marx argued the economic system will be barely indistinguishable from slavery as long as the very few control the means of production and people are left nothing but the body and mind to sell.  Michel Foucault argued the entire postmodern system, culturally, politically, economically, and ideologically, is nothing but a giant prison, gulag.  The author doesn't even realize he himself is in fact a slave and inmate of the system. 

KnightTakesKing's picture

If you think there are a lot of slaves in the world now, just wait until after the global financial collapse.

tvdog's picture

Middle class? What middle class?

rosiescenario's picture

I have been a part time slave for 47 years. Between 40% to 50% of my work time results in no compemsation to me.Therefore, about 5 months out of each year I am working under the condition of slavery. If I do not do this forced labor, then I would be inprisoned.



dufferin's picture

Everywhere there is TAX, it is SLAVERY.


This article is missing a huge part of the world.

Dewey Cheatum Howe's picture



Off topic but of interest.


Penalties for Failure to Register for the Draft

Men who do not register could be prosecuted and, if convicted, fined up to $250,000 and/or serve up to five years in prison. In addition, men who fail to register with Selective Service before turning age 26, even if not prosecuted, will become ineligible for:

  • Student Financial Aid - including Pell Grants, College Work Study, Guaranteed Student/Plus Loans, and National Direct Student Loans.
  • U.S. Citizenship - if the man first arrived in the U.S. before his 26th birthday.
  • Federal Job Training - The Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA) offers programs that can train young men for jobs in auto mechanics and other skills. This program is only open to those men who register with Selective Service.
  • Federal Jobs - men born after December 31, 1959 must be registered to be eligible for jobs in the Executive Branch of the Federal government and the U.S. Postal Service.


Forget the birth certificate for a second.


The man's selective service card is a forgery. That right there should be enough for the military to open up an internal investigation on the matter. Maybe that is why they are purging generals in record numbers as of late.

Mercury's picture

Perhaps if they were to ratify the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, then they might be able to deal with that problem. Bonded labor might have been outlawed as from 1976by the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act 1976, but it has rarely been enforced.


Because nothing fixes ineffective regulation like more regulation...

NewAmericaNow's picture

WE ARE ALL SLAVES - Try to stop working in the "land of the free" USA and see what happens. The only difference is some slaves are kept in better conditions.

Mercury's picture

It's more like: Try working (or hiring) in the "land of the free" USA and see what happens...

Have you seen the Labor Force Participation Rate recently?

Coerced dependency is a much bigger problem in this country than slavery.

Savvy's picture

Anyone in debt is a voluntary slave


Gold is the currency of kings

Silver is the currency of gentlemen

barter is the currency of peasants

Debt is the currency of slaves

Steve in Greensboro's picture

"...Which is better: being a slave in India or being a middle-class slave that finances the government through taxation? A no-brainer? Or, does it depend on where we're sitting?"

Paraphrasing Orwell, there are some ideas so stupid that only "Progressives" like this author believe them.  I called a actual slave in India.  He and I both agreed my being tax-farmed by Obama is better than his being an actual, you know, slave. 

Sandeep sends his regards to the dickhead author and hopes he pulls his head out of his ass real soon.

shovelhead's picture

I love the conflation of metaphorical 'slavery' to the real 'chained to a bed' slavery run by international gangsters.

Seems to me there's a large gulf between "I have a shitty job and I pay too much in taxes" to "Do it or you will die."

Every now hated job was once a eagerly sought after position with application in hand. Nobody forced you to fill that application out.

Very few of us are 'special little snowflakes' in a crowded job market and to make a comparison to the two extremes is ridiculous.

BTW: The OP's contention that I'm guilty somehow for tying a Bangladeshi's kid's leg to a table is beyond stupid. Typical lefty claptrap. It's not a social problem, it's a lack of law enforcement problem.

Keep it real.

overmedicatedundersexed's picture

zero hedge can be and sometimes is, about the freedom from slavery, the slavery of mind sets, that poisons the mind to an illusion grand in scale ,printed from nothing controlled by a corrupt few...on the magic used on the common man to make him not see he is a slave, property of .gov/tbtf, illegal to even take his own life, (state property). To truly end slavery, Buddists , mystic christians, sufi, all advise: open your eyes wide shut. Here's to the free, the paradise we dream of is near, taken by the caravan of our dreams, start that journey.

Diplodicus Rex's picture

"The USA is 139th on the list out of a total of 162. The UK is 160th"

Someone should brush up onthe definition of slavery:


CHX's picture

In no society, whatever its organisation is, are we truely "free". Our actions ALWAYS depend on something, be it the governments/dictators in power, that your slaves do not revolt, food supply, your age, knowledge, financial status, your personal and/or professional network, your individual family situation etc etc. Freedom is an ideal, maybe real for thoughts, but your actions are always constricted by the degree of various dependencies.

LawsofPhysics's picture

There are many homestead operations that would disagree with your broad statement.  There are always exceptions and exceptional people.  Try to be one.

CHX's picture

LoP, my statement is very true even for "HO". Grow your own crop or whater "HO" you mean, you depend on weather conditions, having to have fertilizers or something, and if only it's your own health to do whatever. If "free" was meant to live as a heremit in a quasi or fully self-sustainable cave or secluded HO of some sort, then surely we're not talking about the same "freedom" concept.

FreedomGuy's picture

I am tired of all this collectivist blame crap. Each country is responsible for itself. The fact you try to get the best price on an iPhone or pair of jeans makes you rational, not a slave owner.

The biggest slave owners in all of history are governments by far. Whether you are a pharoah or Chairman Mao people have always been coerced to do the bidding of the State. In fact, all slavery is essentially sanctioned by the State.

As our taxes move to 100% and the Federal register moves to one million pages of rules for all of life you will see who is free and who is slave. Bangladesh might start looking good.

luckylongshot's picture

What is really sick about this article is how it is based on the false assumption that we all have the same amount of power. This is one of the classic discourses supported by the elite as a way to keep their power hidden. If you carry it to its logical conclusion it is possible to blame slaves for slavery, after all they are part of the 'we' that is supposedly responsible for slavery. Please Tyler no more elitist propaganda like this on ZH. The truth is that slavery is a symptom of abuse of power and so the people to blame for it are those who are abusing their power.

Kreditanstalt's picture

There's no such thing as slavery...there's only one's needs, supply of labour and demand for labour.  Sure, those people would be better off outside the salaried economy but they've chosen to enter it. 


starfcker's picture

we are all guilty my ass. i am not guilty of anything. blow me, pivotfarm, what a bunch of nonsense. america never voted for globalization. i can remember when kathy lee gifford was shamed by the media to no end for having her clothing sewn in sweatshops. that same media covered for clinton as he made that the norm, at american workers expense. think about how backward our priorities are. we are betting our civilization and our collective equity as a society that we can turn the dumbest and laziest among us, whoever they may be, into rocket scientists and leaders, instead of just letting our rocket scientists and leaders rise to the top naturally. paying the stupid to breed, that's going to work out well.go spend an hour in a walmart parking lot if you want to know why both parties want massive new imigration

Flying Tiger Comics's picture

Whichever beta male fuckstick wrote this has made some glaring errors, not least of which is to assume that "we" are against what he calls slavery. I'm not.


Third worlders are a constant drain on civilisation and a terrible asset class. Any means of recouping losses on them is good.

bunnyswanson's picture

The cure for "terrible asset class" is to give them a life worth living.  Birth control devices would also help.  Slave labor is the ~wet dream~ of a CEO/manager/owner.  They want it for nothing and then they sell their products at the highest price they can.  These owner operators first though would destroy the competition so workers have no choice but to become slave labor for a few crumbs of bread.

Fucking assholes like you is why this planet is an embarrassment to a sensible and well-read person.  I hope you come back in the next life as a slave.  You deserve nothing.

batterycharged's picture

Speaking of drains on society, the air you breath is totally wasted.

Mad Muppet's picture

At any rate the numbers of slaves given is total bullshit. At best, it's a wild-assed-guess. I Googled the "Israel Sex Slave Registry", but that was no help. Then Googled Official China Slave Registry", but no help there either. So, like the authors, I get to make up any number I fancy...........especially if it helps my agenda

Fiat Envy's picture

Where would the west be if they counted all the alimony slaves?

midtowng's picture

I wonder why prison labor isn't counted as slavery? America has the largest prison system in the world, and many of the prisons are privatized. Those prisons produce all sorts of goods for the corporate world.

Why isn't this counted as slavery?

batterycharged's picture

And why aren't workers at Foxconn considered slave labor? Acting like "China comes much further behind India" is a bit bogus.

Yeah, you have a choice...work 80 hours per week or starve. That's not exactly a shining example of liberty. 


Nimby's picture

It's amazing how much I'm guilty of.  Shit, I'm still guilty for slavery 200 years ago AND I'm guilty of slavery today.  If I'm so guilty, why the fuck do I have to mow my own lawn?

For those that say I'm guilty by not takeing affirmative action against slavery, let me say this:  you don't want me taking "affirmative action" on anything, lest I truly be guilty. 

kito's picture

You are guilty of having a lawn. The ultimate suburban American trophy. The symbol of the American Dream. Perhaps you send some of your sheeple neighbors to graze on it. At least you wouldn't have to mow that waste of space

Serfs_Up's picture

the borrower is the slave to the creditor...is it THAT complicated?

webspin's picture

The workers making Samsung and apple phones are earning 15 times what the Chinese government claims is the poverty threshold. These are highly coveted jobs that prospective workers will travel 500 and more miles in hopes of getting one of these jobs. Fools like this author need to use some incredible and nearly free research materials that can be found on a network of computers called the internet. Only downside to this information is it can make one feel like an arrogant opinionated socialist once the facts are known. But don't worry, most wannabe Marxists never let the facts temper their arrogance and just double up on convictions...kind of like most theists.


Better to have two people working for 2 bucks an hour each than one making 4 and the other nothing. Since westeners already spend all the money they have, you can't increase the wages of one trird world worker without taking away from another.

batterycharged's picture

"Better to have two people working for 2 bucks an hour each than one making 4 and the other nothing."

Yeah, when you make a bullshit strawman argument, you really make a good point.

Hey let me make one, when you take the $100 Billions from APPL they have in cash and give that to the workers in China that made the iThingies, you create people that can buy a fucking iThingy.



Tim_'s picture

Russian girls trapped in sex-slave nightmare

"Newspaper reporter Yaroslava Tankova went undercover to expose the work of the trafficking mafia. She joined a group of Russian girls promised jobs as waitresses overseas. They were trafficked to Israel via Egypt and smuggled across the desert by Beduins."

"In Israel the girls became the property of local pimps. Their passports were confiscated and they were forced into the sex trade."

Russia sentences Israeli to 18 years for sex trafficking

"According to the court, from 1999 to 2007, Avi Yanai and his accomplices sold hundreds of women for prostitution to Israel, Italy, Spain, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, the United Arab Emirates and other countries."

"The women were lured from Moldova, Ukraine, Russia, Belarus and Uzbekistan."

"The Russian prosecutors said that Yanay would frequently accompany the women he sold to Israel, to personally present them to local mobsters. They said he would use a foreign passport on these trips."

Israel - Facts on Trafficking and Prostitution

"Traffickers and pimps earned US$50,000 - 100,000 a year from each prostituted woman, resulting in a US$450 million sex industry. ('A modern form of slavery,' The Jerusalem Post, 13 January 1998)"

"Russian women are bought and sold by pimps in Israel for prices ranging from US$5,000 to $20,000. (Police sources, ''Invisible' Women Shown In Russia's Demographics,' Martina Vandenberg, St. Petersburg Times, 13 October 1997)"

"A small brothel with ten women can make up to 750,000 shekels a month (US $215,000). (Michael Specter, 'Traffickers’ New Cargo: Naive Slavic Women,' New York Times, 11 January 1998)"

"Women trafficked from Eastern Europe, were stripped and sold naked as slaves to Tel Aviv traders for US$500-1,000. Smuggling, fraudulent documents, collaboration between police and brothel owners are involved. There are routine brutal beatings and sexual abuse. (New York Times 11 January 1998)"

"While trafficked women are frequently arrested as illegal workers, the men who brought them to Israel -- many of whom are Israeli citizens -- are not."

"The problem is there is no law [in Israel] against trafficking people, and no law against prostitution."

"Israel does not have a specific law against the sale of human beings. (Michael Specter, 'Traffickers’ New Cargo: Naive Slavic Women,' New York Times, 11 January 1998)"

"There is no law related to bringing women from another country into Israel for prostitution. (CEDAW Report, 8 April 1997)"

Wahooo's picture

What a bullshit article. Doesn't even define slavery, which I take to mean forced to work against one's will. I'm not a slave and nothing I do supports it.

GoldIsMoney's picture

Oh ask yourself one question. How much taxes I pay on a daily/weekly/monthly base? You are as much a  slave as anyone living in any country of the world. Somewhere there will be a tax and you'll better pay your taxes or you will add to the imprisoned numbers.

Anusocracy's picture

I would be more inclined to define it as working to benefit others against your will.

Appropriating a person has been almost entirely replaced by appropriating their output and possessions.

Clever move by our lords and masters.

SunRise's picture

First, I don't accept your premise that I'm a contributor to slavery!  To be a slave owner you have to be able to initiate force against another person's will to convert their labor to your use.  I haven't done that and neither have most of your readers; however, money is what you receive for your labor.  Genuine Money is stored labor.

If anyone confiscates your money against your will, they are actually confiscating your labor.  Confiscated labor is slavery.  Taxes make a slave owner and a slave.

no more banksters's picture

"The spiraling debt of the Federal Government to "Federal" Reserve, is due to repeated quantitative easing policies, i.e. primarily "printing" new money, supposedly made to stimulate the economy. Instead, however, the money went solely to bailout biggest banks, some of which participate in the "Federal" Reserve! Which means that, money returned to the banks through a circle, while uploaded US government with more debt, which will be passed on to future generations! Unanswered questions remain also, about the case on the basis of which, the "Federal" Reserve secretly supplied through the "back door" with more than $ 9 trillion, various financial institutions with questionable balance sheets during the financial crisis in the US. Nobody seems to deal with this issue today. [http://www.counterpunch.org/2010/12/20/the-tax-payers-tab-a-cool-9-trill...]

The wealthiest only see numbers and not people. The growing population means for them "more taxes", while the government shutdown means "less taxes". While Roosevelt did so many steps to reform the state and to relieve the American people, Obama cannot pass neither one legislation for the health and social security. The visit received from leading bankers shortly after the announcement of the US government shutdown is characteristic. Bankers don't pretend anymore because they want to show clearly who is the "big boss"."


no more banksters's picture

"The destruction of welfare state is another enticing gift to financial oligarchy, marking the “relief” from “annoying” additional taxes, but gives also the signal for full privatization of health and education sectors with great opportunities for “big business”. In fact, the U.S. and Europe are engaged in a competitive race on who will give more to large corporations and banks. This explains the recent statement by the U.S. Secretary of Treasury, speaking about growth through consumption, criticizing indirectly the austerity policies in Europe, and the expected reaction of Schaeuble, as the U.S. rely heavily on consuming power, and they do not want for the moment to cut wages and labor rights in extent. They see that Europe is moving rapidly to the degradation of welfare state and dissolution of labor rights, which means that it will quickly become more "attractive", even for big companies based in their territory."


RafterManFMJ's picture

Hey, I'm a slave to the FED - ya don't hear me (munch) complaining, do ya? (chew)

My labor and life is stolen, but so slowly and painlessly (drink) that I don't even notice! (football)

So we are all slaves on a slave planet.

no more banksters's picture

"Inside this cultural totalitarianism, concepts have been distorted in such a degree that, today, in reality represent almost different things of what represented in the past. The concepts of "new" and "freedom" have been substantially annexed by neoliberalism. The result today, is exactly opposite of what these concepts supposed to represent in the past. The concept of "freedom" tend to mean the ability of economic activity in a global arena of fierce competition and nothing more. In order to prevail this model of primitive society simulation - the imposition, survival of the strongest - some human conquests of the past centuries dissolve, and this is propagated as the "new". The decline and the fight for survive regarded as progress."


"In America, the “McCarthic” terror of the Soviet Communism is brought back, together with a systematicaly planned propaganda, in order to stigmatize the welfare state and labor rights as a consequence of this type of Communism, which of course is completely false, since, the conquest of the welfare state and the labor rights, derived through social struggles of decades from the people primarily in western countries. The “communistophobia” is also brought back in Greece from various mouthpieces, in order the welfare state and labor rights to be targeted through a similar way, while extreme nationalism exploits this fact in order to be promoted as the only voice of truth against the systemic propaganda, and gain greater slice of the electoral pie."


Yenbot's picture

You give your employees a mandatory half-hour lunch break on a six-hour day, but they have to work through it to do the job. You give them benefits, contingent on a 40 hour work week and work them thirty hours or less. You rent them a house for twice their pay.

There are many, many ways my friend...

I am Jobe's picture

Dammit Amerika needs to be number 1. Chop Chop got work to do. Get a bill thru the house to make it happen. 

ableman28's picture

What is the difference between slavery and capitalism?  In capitalism the slaves have to take care of themselves.

Umh's picture

Then how do you describe the freeloaders that are net receipents of tax dollars. Some are rich and some are poor but they are freeloading.

ableman28's picture

Have any elderly relatives on medicare or receiving social security?  Convince them to stop taking the money.  The "entittlement" programs that suck up the vast vast majority of government money spent on entitlement programs are those two and the vast, vast majority of recipients are white.

dontgoforit's picture

Social security is not an entitlement.  It was paid into by me and you and most other working Americans since its inception.  The pay-out is like an annuity that you paid for.  Medicare is the biggest cost.  But Medicare, like obamacare is a government take over of the private healthcare industry.  It will surely make a $4 asprin cost $40.

Herd Redirection Committee's picture

"Social security is not an entitlement.  It was paid into by me"

You've got it wrong.  That money was taken from you, and now, to get it back, you advocate taking it from others, i.e. the younger generation, or even the unborn.

You were robbed.  Deal with that, not with trying to collect 'what you are entitled to', from years of 'paying in' (getting robbed, voluntarily).