Every year, $150 billion is made worldwide from modern slavery. These billions are untaxed, undetected and unlimited since human labor can be reused again and again. Sex work is just one business that produces slaves, but many lesser-known industries are just as dangerous. For example, slavery is also prevalent in farming, fishing, domestic servitude, construction, and traveling sales, and massage parlors as well.


The term “slavery” is often associated with the historical race-based enslavement of African people, especially in the United States. Today, however, the term takes on a broader meaning—human trafficking. Here are some central differences between labor exploitation and slavery:


Of course, modern slavery still has ethnic ties as well. Around the world, minority (here, not simply meaning people of color but an ethnic group that does not comprise the majority of the population) groups are especially vulnerable to slavery. Nevertheless, there are many other factors that allow traffickers or owners to control their victims. Let's go through the ways that traffickers enslave others:


1. Little or No Pay


Enslaved or trafficked persons may not earn any money at all for their labor. Despite working long hours in what are often difficult positions, they will not receive acceptable wages. What little they may earn can also be absorbed by the trafficker, which brings us to the next point:


2. Limited Control Over Earnings


Sometimes, traffickers will give their workers the illusion of an equal partnership by claiming to pay their victims with food or a place to stay. Other times, victims rack up debts to their traffickers to pay off loans for funerals, weddings, or other expenses. As time passes and the workers are continuously under their owner's control, their debts grow, often so fast that the victims are never able to pay for their liberty. This relationship does not end with death, either--sometimes, victims' children or spouses will be called in their stead to work off the debt.


3. Substandard or Abusive Conditions


It is common for traffickers to physically and psychologically abuse their victims. Laborers are forced to work unfairly long hours, with no concern for fatigue or even illness. They also suffer injuries, both in the workplace or from their controllers. 


4. Limited Freedom of Movement


Modern-day slaves, just like slaves of ages past, do not enjoy the freedom to go where they wish. They are often forced to live in compounds, where they remain under the supervision of their controllers.

5. Limited Freedom to Leave


In most cases, it is impossible for slaves to leave their traffickers. Victims may have language/educational barriers that prevent them from finding reliable work elsewhere. Otherwise, their owners may have withheld documentation, threatened deportation (if they are immigrants) or violence against loved ones, or simply barred the victim from quitting until their debt is repaid.


The issues covered here only scratch the surface of modern slavery. If you wish to learn more, click on the icon below to see an extremely detailed and honest depiction of slavery today from the Council on Foreign Relations:





  • Unfair pay

  • Control over earnings

  • Substandard working conditions

  • Freedom of movement

  • Freedom to leave


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  • Little or no pay

  • Limited control over earnings through peonage

  • Substandard or abusive working conditions

  • Limited freedom of movement

  • Limited freedom to leave