Badges of Modern Slavery

Amir Paz-Fuchs


Notwithstanding the 19th century formal abolition of slavery as legal ownership of people, modern slavery and forced labour have not been consigned to the past. In fact, their existence is more widespread, and made more difficult to tackle due to the lack of formal, legal criteria. This article suggests that reference to historical institutions reveals seven ‘badges of slavery’ that are helpful in identifying occurrences of modern slavery and forced labour. These are: humiliation, ownership of people, exploitation of the vulnerable, lack of consent, terms and conditions of employment, limits on the power to end the employment relationship, and denial of rights outside the work relationship. These constitute modern slavery, and distinguish it from other instances of exploitative employment relations, however problematic. In addition, even where the label of modern slavery is misplaced, the identification of particular badges of slavery in contemporary employment relations may assist in highlighting their troubling facets.

Published September 2016
Frequency Bi-Monthly
Volume 79
Issue 5
Print ISSN 0026-7961
Online ISSN 1468-2230