The IDS briefing entitled The Modern Slavery Trap: Bonded Labour highlights is based on research conducted with villagers in Nepal and India by IDS research fellows Pauline Oosterhoff and Danny Burns, supported by the Freedom Fund.
Its key recommendations include prioritising support for local officials to enforce existing laws on bonded labour; and developing inclusive, community approaches to tackling bonded labour, as it derives from dynamics of whole families and communities – warning that focusing on individuals will have limited impact.
Generations within marginalised communities most affected
The briefing highlights that bonded labour disproportionately affects communities living in poverty that are historically socially and economically marginalised.
Generations within families in bonded labour can find themselves trapped in a cycle of bonded labour. For example, if adults who are already in bonded labour require further loans, they will often have to offer their child’s labour to repay the additional debt – thus trapping the next generation into bonded labour. Family members can also become bonded labourers through inherited debt when original debtors within their family die.
Participatory data provides critical insights into bonded labour
Participatory research involving the gathering of ‘life stories’ from villagers, revealed key factors leading households in particular areas of Nepal into debt bondage and also weaknesses in policy implementation that is enabling the prevalence of bonded labour to persist.
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