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Bonded labour, also known as debt bondage or debt slavery, is the most common form of modern slavery. Debt bondage occurs when a person is forced to work to pay off a debt, often taken to pay for health emergencies because of lack of universal health coverage. People are forced to work for little or no pay, with no control over their debt. The money they earn goes to pay off their loan and the value of their work invariably becomes greater than the original sum borrowed. Bonded labour is most widespread in South Asian countries such as India and Pakistan. Often entire families have to work to pay off the debt taken by one of its members. Sometimes, the debt can be passed down the generations and children can be held in debt bondage because of a loan their parents had taken decades ago. In South Asia it still flourishes in agriculture, brick kilns, mills, mines and factories.  Salmoni was forced to leave school and work on a brickyard after her father became ill and could no longer afford to pay rent. She worked long hours and was underpaid. When she and her parents agreed that she should no longer work and go back to school, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Salmoni’s father borrowed the money for her surgery from the brickyard owner and the family became trapped in bonded labour.

Brick burning at Bonginda, upper Congo