Modern-day slavery

Modern-day slavery

December 2 is the United Nation's International Day for the Abolition of Slavery. Did you know that slavery still exists today and is probably much closer to you than you realise?

Do the preparation task first. Then read the article and do the exercises.


Blood and Earth

In his book Blood and Earth, Kevin Bales speaks with Ibrahim, a 23-year-old slave who has worked in a gold mine since he was nine. He is dying. His lungs are filled with liquid caused by the dust and bacteria in the mine. As their conversation ends, Ibrahim turns to Kevin Bales and says, 'I want to be remembered. When my story is written and your book is ready, will you send me a copy? I want to show it to others, to show them that I am not completely useless. I just want to show that something good can come out of my life.'

So what's the connection to you? As you read this article, you are probably using a smartphone, tablet, or laptop. Each device requires minerals – including gold. Perhaps the gold in your electronic device was mined by slaves.

Slavery today

According to the Global Slavery Index 2018, over 40 million people are victims of modern slavery, and of these, 15 million are in forced marriage. Slavery involves violence, physical or psychological, and control – often in the form of threats in order to generate profit. To quote Kevin Bales, 'Slavery is when one person controls another, uses violence to maintain that control and exploits them economically.' This violence may be physical and/or psychological, and the control may be verbal threats – but at the heart of slavery is exploitation and 'ownership' of another human being for profit. Forms of modern slavery include forced labour, human trafficking, commercial sexual exploitation, domestic servitude and forced marriage.

You might be surprised to see forced marriage included above. Sadly, forced marriage involves the same lack of choice, power imbalance, coercion and labour exploitation as other forms of slavery. This also includes forced child marriage – usually of girls, of 17 years or younger.

Slavery behind closed doors

Another form of slavery is domestic servitude. Across the globe, domestic workers, mostly women, migrate abroad to support their families back home. Employment agents in their country of origin promise a generous salary and good working conditions with a caring host family. This, however, may be far from reality. Domestic workers are sometimes forced to work long hours and their passports and mobile phones are taken away. In extreme cases, behind closed doors of private homes, they are locked up, starved, deprived of sleep and often physically and sexually abused. They are trapped, scared and unfamiliar with their new surroundings. Domestic servitude happens globally, including in the UK.

The power of consumer choice

Every item we buy has a back story. From electronics to textiles, from handmade carpets to coffee, tea and chocolate, each of these products might include child or adult slavery. Consider a product as innocent as chocolate. While the chocolate bar itself may have been produced in your country, the cocoa in the chocolate probably came from West Africa, where 60 per cent of the world's cocoa is produced. As you read this, thousands of children and adults live in slave-like conditions on cocoa farms. Unknowingly, your purchase might support slavery. However, consumer demand for ethically-sourced products and services can send a powerful message to producers. Imagine if we all refused to purchase goods that have a back story of slavery. Company sales, and therefore profits, would fall. Look around at items in your home and workplace and ask yourself the simple question, 'Where did this come from and who made it?'

Why didn't I learn about modern slavery at school?

Did you ever learn about modern slavery at school? History lessons may have included the horrific practice of slavery, however, it was probably considered something that was very much 'in the past'. But slavery still exists and it is the everyday reality for millions of people. It takes brave educators to raise awareness of the difficult, upsetting and invisible reality of modern slavery.

The good news is that thousands of individuals and anti-slavery organisations are taking action. One such organisation is The NO Project, which focuses specifically on the education of youth and young adults. 'Youth are the next generation of corporate leaders, policy makers and consumers,' says the founder of The NO Project. 'How we choose to spend our money says a lot about who we are. So, the question is – who are we? And remember, another time, in another place, that enslaved human being could be you.'


Task 1

Task 2


Worksheet124.54 KB

Language level


Average: 4.6 (26 votes)

Submitted by LuisFrancisco on Fri, 01/12/2023 - 01:35


In my opinion, we should quit using social media and any kind of device as long we improve our habits, so the main idea is to change our bad habits for good ones.
Learning and practicing any type of art can make you more relaxed and focused on the things you care about, still learning about this topic (mental health) is by far the best solution to prevent the actual problems.
If anyone has the opportunity to connect with nature and explore different natural resources, that could help a lot.
in addition, avoiding a job you don't like is a great solution, working on the things you like and love feels great, and means a little bit more work but it's worth of us, to treat ourselves better.

Submitted by LuisFrancisco on Sat, 25/11/2023 - 02:57


Slavery has been known for being one of the most terrible problems of humanity. This topic definitely is a must for schools, in that way the newest generations have the knowledge required to put an end to this problem once and for all. There are prepared and kind people who are doing the right thing to stop this problem. In my honest opinion, we can help by not buying those kinds of products and sharing this kind of information with others.

Submitted by OliveiraJeff on Mon, 02/01/2023 - 17:35


Afternoon everyone.
After read this article, I remembered with in my class, We studied about the slavery in the past, and not in modern-days, but in the text We can see that today have a lot of people living in this situation. But is necessary create an awereness sense and brave educator for explain youngs about this situation.
And about us? What are doing about this?

Submitted by nikoslado on Wed, 27/07/2022 - 19:54


Dear friends readers,
Reading this article over and over again, I cannot but congratulate the editorial team and the organization for daring to raise such a subject that strikes directly at the heart of the system, the self-proclaimed ''civilized and democratic Western World'', and its leaders who claim to protect ''democracy and the universal values of European enlightenment'' in Ukraine, while at the same time there is contemporary slavery in the cities we live.
I cannot but be filled with rage and indignation at this hypocrisy. Unfortunately, it is not enough for 'brave educators' to solve such issues. We all need to understand what kind of leaders are governing us and what interests they serve.
This issue cannot be found out - for example - by an English columnist and not be known by his government and the prosecuting authorities. If we even take into account the fact that the school books - as the article says - do not even mention the existence of modern slavery, we understand very well who this phenomenon serves and how much hypocrisy and deceptiveness of common opinion there is.

Submitted by jyoti Chaudhary on Wed, 04/05/2022 - 11:14


when I was at school I learned about slavery in history books and in the ancient period people work to help our families and in any circumstance they work like slavery and forcefully they marage to a girl at the age of 18.

Submitted by spaghetti mafia on Mon, 18/04/2022 - 18:12


In the beginning I was shocked to read that slavery still exists today and as I read through,I started to realize how common modern slavery is and how it's continuously happening in front of our eyes.This article really changed the way I view the products and objects around me, considering that now I know that most of the materials needed for the creation of them,are achieved through the exploitation of a person's freedom and labour.It's a good thing that awareness is starting to rise and people and different organizations are starting to take action.I look forward to seeing things change for the good and it's up to us to make that change.

Submitted by Susan Celis on Thu, 17/02/2022 - 00:23


While I knew about slavery from my history classes, I did not know forced marriage as a type of slavery. It is amazing that in the 21st century slavery still exists and is close to us.

Submitted by Nouralhoda on Fri, 28/01/2022 - 12:13


I thought that slavery is something related to the past and that it is not existed any more , but unfortunately I read this article to realize that it has not vanished yet. Sadly enough, most countries are still practicing it using different names just to hide their crimes and pretend their modernity.

Submitted by alba17 on Thu, 09/12/2021 - 17:56


This article made me realize the lack of awareness we have when consuming. Although, it's very difficult to follow the path of the products we consume so we can skip slavery. I think the market is still vague because corporations profit from slavery.

Submitted by Stela Stoycheva on Thu, 02/12/2021 - 10:10


I learn that everyone, everywhere is slave in different type of slavery. Unfortunately I don`t thing will be improve that or stop :( I think everything is politics, a lot of money, dominance...sometimes maybe and choice when you close your eyes...
Fingers cross it will change that soon... but I don`t think