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Encyclopedia > Debt bondage

Debt bondage or bonded labor is a means of paying off a family's loans via the labor of family members or heirs. It is either a kind of indenture or truck system, and is therefore also a form of unfree labor. Historically, in the USA, it is also sometimes called peonage. (Note, however, that the word peon has broader implications and usage in Latin America.) Where children have to work due to debt bondage, this is considered a worst form of child labor. An Indentured servant is an unfree labourer under contract to work (for a specified amount of time) for another person, often without any pay, but in exchange for accommodation, food, other essentials and/or free passage to a new country. ... A truck system is an exploitative form of employment — or, more specifically, unfree labour — under which workers are: paid in a form of limited direct credit or tokens, which may only be used at a company store, owned by their employers, or; paid in unexchangeable goods and/or services. ... Unfree labour is a generic or collective term for forms of work, especially in modern or early modern history, in which adults and/or children are employed without wages, or for a minimal wage. ... The word peon is derived from the Spanish peón, in its archaic root connoting a person who travels by foot rather than mounted on a horse (see caballero), and the derivation peonage are English words which have a variety of related meanings: In Spanish-speaking countries, especially those in... Latin America consists of the countries of South America and some of North America (including Central America and some the islands of the Caribbean) whose inhabitants mostly speak Romance languages, although Native American languages are also spoken. ... The Convention concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour, known in short as the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, was adopted by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in 1999 as ILO Convention No 182. ...

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Historical background to bonded labor

Prior to the early modern age, feudal and serfdom systems were the predominant political and economic systems in Europe. These systems were based on the holding of all land in fief or fee, and the resulting relation of lord to vassal, and was characterized by homage, legal and military service of tenants, and forfeiture. Many historians have argued that this system was also established in some Latin American countries, following European settlement. The early modern period is a term used by historians to refer to the period in Western Europe and its first colonies, between the Middle Ages and modern society. ... Feudalism comes from the Late Latin word feudum, itself borrowed from a Germanic root *fehu, a commonly used term in the Middle Ages which means fief, or land held under certain obligations by feodati. ... Costumes of Slaves or Serfs, from the Sixth to the Twelfth Centuries, collected by H. de Vielcastel, from original Documents in the great Libraries of Europe. ... World map showing location of Europe Europe is geologically and geographically a peninsula, forming the westernmost part of Eurasia. ... Under the system of feudalism, a fiefdom, fief, feud or fee, consisted of heritable lands or revenue-producing property granted by a liege lord in return for a vassal knights service (usually fealty, military service, and security). ... One pays a fee as renumeration for services, especially the honorarium paid to a doctor, lawyer or member of a learned profession. ...


A modernization of the feudal system was "peonage", where debtors were bound in servitude to their creditors until their debts were paid. Although peons — from a technical point of view — are only obligated to a creditor monetarily, from a practical perspective, the resultant relationship of a peon to the creditor is destructive of basic personal autonomy within the society.


Historical peonage

Peonage means an unfree labor system where laborers are bound in servitude until their debts are paid in full. Those bound by such a system are known, in the US, as peons. Unfree labour is a generic or collective term for forms of work, especially in modern or early modern history, in which adults and/or children are employed without wages, or for a minimal wage. ...


Employers typically force laborers to buy from employer-owned stores at inflated prices in order to keep them in debt. This is also a variation on the truck system (or company store system), in which workers are exploited by being paid only in minimal amounts of goods and/or services. A truck system is an exploitative form of employment — or, more specifically, unfree labour — under which workers are: paid in a form of limited direct credit or tokens, which may only be used at a company store, owned by their employers, or; paid in unexchangeable goods and/or services. ...


Such systems have existed in many places at many times throughout history.


Historical examples

  • The American South - Such a system was often used in the southern United States after the American Civil War where African-American and poor white farmers, known as sharecroppers, were often forced to purchase seed and supplies from the owner of the land they farmed and pay the owner in a share of the crop.
  • In Peru a peonage system existed from the 1500s until land reform in the 1950s. One estate in Peru that existed from the late 1500s until the end of peonage had up to 1,700 peons employed and boasted its own jail. Peons were expected to work a minimum of three days a week for their landlord and more if necessary to complete assigned work. Workers were paid a symbolic 2 cents per year. Workers were unable to travel outside of their assigned lands without permission and were not allowed to organize any independent community activity.

The American Civil War was fought in the United States from 1861 until 1865 between the United States – forces coming mostly from the 23 northern states of the Union – and the newly-formed Confederate States of America, which consisted of 11 southern states that had declared their secession. ... // Overview African Americans, also known as Afro-Americans, Black Americans, or blacks, are an ethnic group in the United States of America whose ancestors, usually in predominant part, were indigenous to West Africa. ... Sharecropping is a system of farming in which employee farmers work a parcel of land in return for a fraction of the parcels crops. ... Centuries: 15th century - 16th century - 17th century Decades: 1450s 1460s 1470s 1480s 1490s - 1500s - 1510s 1520s 1530s 1540s 1550s Years: 1500 1501 1502 1503 1504 1505 1506 1507 1508 1509 1510 Events and Trends Leonardo da Vinci paints the Mona Lisa External links 1500-1524 Events 1500-1509 Events Categories... Land reform (also agrarian reform although that can have a broader meaning) is the government-initiated or government-backed redistribution of — i. ... // Events and trends The 1950s in Western society was marked with a sharp rise in the economy for the first time in almost 30 years and return to the 1920s-type consumer society built on credit and boom-times, as well as the height of the baby-boom from returning... Centuries: 15th century - 16th century - 17th century Decades: 1450s 1460s 1470s 1480s 1490s - 1500s - 1510s 1520s 1530s 1540s 1550s Years: 1500 1501 1502 1503 1504 1505 1506 1507 1508 1509 1510 Events and Trends Leonardo da Vinci paints the Mona Lisa External links 1500-1524 Events 1500-1509 Events Categories...

Modern views

According to Anti-Slavery International, "A person enters debt bondage when their labor is demanded as a means of repayment of a loan, or of money given in advance. Usually, people are tricked or trapped into working for no pay or very little pay (in return for such a loan), in conditions which violate their human rights. Invariably, the value of the work done by a bonded laborer is greater that the original sum of money borrowed or advanced." Anti-Slavery International is a charity and lobby group, based in the United Kingdom. ...


At international law

Debt bondage has been defined by the United Nations as a form of "modern day slavery" [1] and is prohibited by international law. It persists nonetheless especially in developing nations, which have few mechanisms for credit security or bankruptcy, and where fewer people hold formal title to land or possessions. According to some economists, for example Hernando de Soto, this is a major barrier to development in those countries - entrepreneurs do not dare take risks and cannot get credit because they hold no collateral and may burden families for generations to come. Hernando de Soto (born 1941 in Arequipa) is a Peruvian economist known for his work on the informal economy. ...


Where children are forced to work because of debt bondage of the family, this is considered not only child labor, but a worst form of child labor in terms of the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention of the International Labour Organization. Child labour or labor is the term for the employment of children. ... The Convention concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour, known in short as the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, was adopted by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in 1999 as ILO Convention No 182. ... International Labour organization is involved with justice. ...


Despite the UN prohibition, Anti-Slavery International estimates that "between 10 and 20 million people are being subjected to debt bondage today."


Modern example: prostitution

News media in western Europe regularly carry reports about one particular kind of debt bondage: women from Eastern Europe who are forced to work in prostitution as a way to pay off the "debt" they acquired when they were illegally brought over the border. This form of debt bondage also takes place in other parts of the world. See article on the trafficking in human beings. Prostitution is the sale of sexual services, such as oral sex or sexual intercourse, for money. ... Trafficking in human beings includes recruiting, harbouring, obtaining, and transporting persons by use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjecting them to involuntary acts, such as commercial sexual exploitation (including prostitution) or involuntary labour, i. ...


Marxist analysis

According to Marxist economists, debt bondage is characteristic of feudal economies, where families are considered the responsible unit for financial relationships, and where heirs continue to owe parents' debts upon their deaths. Fully capitalist economies are characterized by the individual taking all responsibility, and such mechanisms as bankruptcy and death taxes reducing creditors' rights (while increasing the power of the state). Heirs are freed from the creditor, but at the cost of a drastically increased power accruing to the state itself. Feudalism comes from the Late Latin word feudum, itself borrowed from a Germanic root *fehu, a commonly used term in the Middle Ages which means fief, or land held under certain obligations by feodati. ...


Debt bondage is a form of disguised slavery in which the subject is not legally owned, but is instead bound by a contract to perform labor to work off a debt, under terms that make it impossible to completely retire the debt and thereby escape from the contract. A monument celebrating the emancipation of slaves in the British Empire in 1834, erected in Victoria Tower Gardens, Millbank, Westminster, London Look up Slavery in Wiktionary, the free dictionary Enslaved redirects here. ... A contract is any legally-enforceable promise or set of promises made by one party to another and, as such, reflects the policies represented by freedom of contract. ... Debt is that which is owed. ...


See also

Capitalism has been defined in various ways (see Capitalism in Wikiquote). ... An Indentured servant is an unfree labourer under contract to work (for a specified amount of time) for another person, often without any pay, but in exchange for accommodation, food, other essentials and/or free passage to a new country. ... Karl Marx Karl Heinrich Marx (May 5, 1818 Trier, Germany – March 14, 1883 London, UK) was an influential German philosopher, political economist, and revolutionary organizer of the International Workingmens Association, two of whose books in particular, Das Kapital and The Communist Manifesto (the latter with Friedrich Engels), laid the... A monument celebrating the emancipation of slaves in the British Empire in 1834, erected in Victoria Tower Gardens, Millbank, Westminster, London Look up Slavery in Wiktionary, the free dictionary Enslaved redirects here. ... Trafficking in human beings includes recruiting, harbouring, obtaining, and transporting persons by use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjecting them to involuntary acts, such as commercial sexual exploitation (including prostitution) or involuntary labour, i. ... Wage slavery is a term expressing disapproval of a condition where a person feels compelled to work in return for payment of a wage. ... The term working class is used to denote a social class. ... The Convention concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour, known in short as the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, was adopted by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in 1999 as ILO Convention No 182. ...

External links

  • Human Rights Watch report on Thai women tricked into debt bondage in Japan
  • Anti-Slavery International

  Results from FactBites:
 
Debt bondage - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (926 words)
Debt bondage has been defined by the United Nations as a form of "modern day slavery" [1] and is prohibited by international law.
According to Marxist economists, debt bondage is characteristic of feudal economies, where families are considered the responsible unit for financial relationships, and where heirs continue to owe parents' debts upon their deaths.
Debt bondage is a form of disguised slavery in which the subject is not legally owned, but is instead bound by a contract to perform labor to work off a debt, under terms that make it impossible to completely retire the debt and thereby escape from the contract.
Bondage - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (228 words)
The word bondage is derived from the Middle English bonde ("serf"), which came from the Old English (Anglo-Saxon) word bōnda ("husbandman"), which itself comes from the Old Norse bōndi, the past participle of būa ("to live").
Debt bondage, a modern form of slavery in which people are bound by debt, rather than legal ownership.
The term bondage is also used figuratively in religion, to mean spiritual attachment, such as to the physical world, or an evil compelling force, such as original sin.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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