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Researching Forced Labour in the Global EconomyMethodological Challenges and Advances$

Genevieve LeBaron

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780197266472

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197266472.001.0001

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What is Forced Labour? A Practical Guide for Humanities and Social Science Research

What is Forced Labour? A Practical Guide for Humanities and Social Science Research

(p.79) 5 What is Forced Labour? A Practical Guide for Humanities and Social Science Research
Researching Forced Labour in the Global Economy

Jean Allain

British Academy

Abstract and Keywords

This practical guide provides a baseline understanding of the concept of forced labour to assist researchers in the humanities and social sciences ensure their representations of the phenomenon are rigorous and credible. While recognising the limitations of the 1930 ILO Convention definition of forced labour, this Chapter provides helpful guidance in understanding what does – and what does not – constitute forced labour. Summarised in 10 Practical Points for Understanding Forced Labour, this Chapter helps researchers build a baseline understanding of forced labour by providing a dozen helpful markers to ensure that those within the humanities and social sciences are speaking the same language when they represent the phenomenon of forced labour.

Keywords:   social sciences, humanities, forced labour, International Labour Organization, Slavery, Forced Labour Convention, Forced Labour Protocol


WHEN SEEKING TO STUDY a phenomenon, it is fundamental for researchers not only to capture its essence, but also to form a consensus around what this essence is constituted of. A baseline understanding of any concept is fundamental for ensuring methodological rigour. Beyond possible disagreements as to the particularities of forced labour or its conceptualisations across studies, it is imperative that researchers working in this area operate within, at the very least, a baseline understanding of the concept – for neglecting to do so may invite diminishing returns. In particular, the absence of an objective baseline understanding may produce studies that err on the side of subjectivity, which could consequently invite critique with regard to credibility, empirical rigour, the accuracy of representation, and the ability to identify cases of forced labour.

What is forced labour? Similarly to Marx, one could argue that wage slavery requires us all to engage in forced labour. However, this understanding negates the possibility of a standard against which society could measure whether labour is acceptable or coerced. History tells us that the designations of free and unfree labour are subjective. During much of the nineteenth century, indentured servitude was understood as free labour, as employees ostensibly consented freely to contracts that committed them to working for a set time period. By today’s standards, such instances would fall under the category of forced labour, as the state guaranteed the terms of these contracts – regardless of how employees were treated – by physically returning, with the help of the police or the sheriff, those who sought to escape exploitative, abusive or brutish conditions, and by allowing employers to administer corporal punishment for breach of contract (Steinfeld 1991).

(p.80) The move away from this type of contractual labour emerged in reaction to societal changes driven by labour movements and trade unions, resulting in labour standards to regulate industry, the end of indentured labour, and the limiting of employers’ freedom to, among other things, contract above a maximum set of working hours and a minimum amount of pay, or compel forced labour. It is ultimately the state that, through law, establishes the societal standard for what constitutes forced labour and whose role it is to arbitrate between employers and workers when it is not met. The standard of forced labour emerged at the height of European colonialism and was first agreed to at the international level through its inclusion in the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) 1930 Forced Labour Convention. Recently, further considerations regarding forced labour were concluded in the 2014 Protocol to the 1930 Forced Labour Convention.

The definition of forced labour from the 1930 Convention should not only serve as a baseline meaning of what constitutes forced labour, but also provide a starting point for research in the area of forced labour in any given academic discipline. In order to understand why this nearly century-old definition remains relevant, we must first consider the parameters of what constitutes forced labour.

What follows is meant to assist researchers in the humanities and social sciences studying forced labour by providing them with a method for establishing a shared, baseline understanding of what does – and what does not – constitute forced labour. In addition to offering a tool for individual researchers, it also provides a means for consistency across disciplines while ensuring cross-disciplinary accuracy; cross-over in the ability to use data across studies, both at the meta and anecdotal levels; and, ultimately, an anchor for the overall credibility of those studying forced labour.

What is forced labour?

The core definition of forced labour was first established by an international legal agreement in 1930. During these negotiations, it was understood that ‘it was right that this Article should be of a very sweeping character and that we should include everything we could in the terms of the definition’ (ILO 1930a: 269). However, as will become evident in the subsequent section – ‘What is not forced labour?’ – this definition also comes with a number of exceptions.

The understanding of forced labour, however, has not remained static over the years: authoritative bodies such as the ILO’s Committee of Experts have updated the concept through their observations, as have regional human rights courts and the domestic courts of various countries. This process has therefore given more substance to the common understanding of forced labour beyond the bare bones of the definition established in 1930. While the ILO definition speaks of ‘forced or compulsory labour’, there is no legal distinction between ‘forced’ and ‘compulsory’ (p.81) labour, which has resulted in the simple reference to ‘forced labour’. The ILO definition of ‘forced and compulsory labour’ is found in the ILO Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29) in Article 2(1) and reads:

All work or service which is exacted under menace of any penalty for its non-performance and for which the worker concerned does not offer himself voluntarily.

It is possible to establish a baseline understanding of what constitutes forced labour by breaking down this definition into its component parts:

  1. 1 ‘All work or service’

    The first of these components – ‘all work or service’ – may appear to be the most obvious of all: forced labour takes place through working relations, where any type of labour or service is being provided (ILO 1968). Yet, this acknowledgement places a fundamental limitation upon forced labour, as it requires the presence of an element of ‘work or service’. Even at its very worst, forced labour remains a transgression of work, i.e. a contravention of acceptable practices within the context of an individual providing work or a service for another person. To go past the boundaries of such a situation removes us from the exclusive realm of forced labour, and brings us, as will be considered later, into the orbit of situations akin to slavery.

  2. 2 ‘Exacted under a menace of a penalty’

    The exacting of labour under the menace of a penalty is the means by which a person is compelled to perform forced labour (ILO 2005: 6). During the negotiation process of the 1930 Convention, it was recognised that this component entailed ‘any penalty or punishment … whatever’, including the ‘loss of any rights or privileges’ (ILO 1930b: 11). The ILO Committee of Experts, which evaluates bi-annually how states that have accepted the 1930 Convention as law carry out their legal obligations, has further elaborated upon the latter provision. To that end, the Committee of Experts has noted that a ‘penalty’ will include instances ‘where persons who refuse to perform voluntary labour may lose certain rights, advantages or privileges’ such as ‘promotion, transfer, access to new employment, the acquisition of certain consumer goods, housing or participation in university programmes’ (ILO 2007: 20).

    Beyond these considerations by the ILO, regional human rights courts have also elaborated upon what constitutes a ‘menace of a penalty’. The European Court of Human Rights has determined that a menace need not amount to a threat uttered; a victim may encounter ‘an equivalent situation in terms of the perceived seriousness of the threat’ (Siliadin 2005: 37). In the case being referenced, which relates to a child who was a foreign domestic worker, it was deemed that the victim’s fear of arrest by the police, as a migrant whose (p.82) illegal immigration status was nurtured by her employer, constituted a menace of a penalty.

    In an extreme case of forced labour heard by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, dozens of herders were forced to drive a thousand head of cattle at the demand of paramilitaries, whose menace of a penalty was of the ‘most extreme form’; that is, that of ‘direct or implicit threat of physical violence or death addressed to the victim or his next of kin’. In making this determination, the Court held that the phrase ‘a menace of a penalty’ ‘can consist in the real and actual presence of a threat, which can assume different forms and degrees, of which the most extreme are those that imply coercion, physical violence, isolation or confinement, or the threat to kill the victim or his next of kin’ (Ituango 2006: 79).

  3. 3 ‘Voluntary offer of labour’

    The final component of the ILO definition of forced labour relates to consent (ILO 2005: 6). The ILO has noted that the element of ‘voluntary offer of labour’ overlaps with that of ‘menace of any penalty’ inasmuch as freedom to work cannot exist under threat (ILO 2007: 20). In many ways this component of the definition no longer holds, as consent to forced labour cannot justify the compelling of such labour. That said, if consent is to be offered, it must be set out in law. Thus, the ILO has determined that ‘account must be taken of the legislative and practical framework which guarantees or limits that freedom’ (ILO 2007: 20). In other words, if the type of consent that is sought after is not established in law, it will fall foul of this provision and will be deemed labour that is not voluntarily offered. Where consent is not forthcoming – and the other two component parts of the definition are satisfied – forced labour is present.

    Beyond constraints established by law, the ILO Committee of Experts recognised that ‘indirect coercion interfering with a worker’s freedom to “offer himself voluntarily” may result … from an employer’s practice, e.g. where migrant workers are induced by deceit, false promises and retention of identity documents or forced to remain at the disposal of an employer; such practices represent a clear violation of the Convention’ (ILO 2007: 20). At the front end of taking on work, the regional Inter-American Court of Human Rights has noted that the lack of voluntary nature of the work ‘consists in the absence of consent or free choice when the situation of forced labour begins or continues. This can occur for different reasons, such as illegal deprivation of liberty, deception or psychological coercion’ (Ituango 2006: 79, 80).

    With regard to the termination of labour, the ILO has stated that a worker’s freedom to offer herself or himself voluntarily mandates that ‘the workers’ right to free choice of employment remains inalienable’ and, as such, the introduction of ‘statutory provisions preventing termination of employment (p.83) of indefinite duration (or very long duration) upon notice of reasonable length is to turn a contractual relationship based on the will of the parties into service by compulsion of law, and is thus incompatible with the Convention’. Likewise, the requirement ‘to serve beyond the expiry of a contract of fixed duration’ would be incompatible with the provision of work that is ‘voluntarily offered’ (ILO 2007: 20).

    In summary, the final component of forced labour should be understood in the following terms: the ability for a person to voluntarily offer her or his labour will be negated by any means or methods of coercion by an employer to compel said labour.

After having deconstructed the three constitutive parts of the legal definition of forced labour, it should be clear that using this definition to form a baseline understanding for humanities or social science research requires that: 1) forced labour transpires in the context of the provision of work or service; 2) it be compelled as a result of a threat; and 3) the threat in question coerces the victim into labouring against her or his will. If any of these three elements of the definition is not present, then neither is forced labour.

What is not forced labour?

Understanding the established, core meaning of forced labour also requires the appreciation of what does not, in legal terms, constitute forced labour. In the first instance, it should be understood that the concept of forced labour in the 1930 Forced Labour Convention was forged at the height of European colonialism, as a means to control the abuse of colonial labour, rather than as a measure to abolish forced labour. The Covenant of the League of Nations required that its members ‘endeavour to secure and maintain fair and humane conditions of labour for men, women, and children’ – both at home and in their colonies (Covenant 1920). The Covenant also created the mandate system, whereby a number of the colonial possessions of the vanquished were handed to the victors as a ‘sacred trust of civilisation’ which included, for specific mandate holders, the requirement to prohibit ‘all forms of forced or compulsory labour, except for essential public works and services’ (ILO 1929). There is, in this, therefore a prime consideration for developing an understanding of forced labour, which holds to this day: forced labour is not absolutely prohibited, but is rather permitted for specific, public, purposes.

This was made most evident during the negotiations of the 1930 Forced Labour Convention where, despite the professed aim to suppress forced labour, it was recognised that the Convention was tending ‘towards a kind of codification of forced labour’ for colonial purposes (ILO 1930b: 46). The codification in question established ‘transitional provisions’ which allowed for forced labour to occur, but (p.84) regulated, for instance, the age, gender and provision of food, for those compelled to labour. However, a new instrument negotiated by the ILO was created in 2014 that repeals these provisions from the 1930 Convention; the Protocol of 2014 to the Forced Labour Convention effectively removes these transitional provisions, which constituted more than two-thirds of the original 1930 Convention (ILO 2014). As a result, what remains of the 1930 Forced Labour Convention is the obligation to criminalise forced labour, the definition of forced labour, as well as the exceptions to forced labour.

Despite the pledge in 1930 by states ‘to suppress the use of forced or compulsory labour in all its forms within the shortest possible period’, and to ensure that forced labour is used, solely ‘during the transitional period, for public purposes only and as an exceptional measure’ (ILO 1930c: Article 1(2)), the 2014 Protocol to the Forced Labour Convention excludes five institutions of public work from being considered as instances of forced labour – despite these being recognised as such by the ILO. These five formal exceptions to the general rule are: military conscription, civic duty, penal labour, emergency assistance and community service (see Appendix for full provisions). Thus, the legal definition established by the 1930 Forced Labour Convention does not consider these five exceptions to be manifestations of forced labour. Researchers must therefore frame their understanding of these practices within the realm of what specific uses of forced labour are allowed by states. Regarding how these five exceptions are understood beyond what is outlined by the 1930 Convention, the ILO Committee of Experts has gone to great lengths to set out the parameters of what kind of forced labour is deemed acceptable (Allain 2013).

Beyond these five formal exceptions, it should also be noted that labour that is considered degrading, exploitative or harsh does not, in and of itself, constitute forced labour. In this vein, the compulsion to work brought on by economic necessity – as opposed to, as set out in the previous section, a menace of a penalty by one person towards another – does not constitute forced labour. While one may lament structural inequality and the dire labour conditions found in the recesses of supply chains of a globalised economy, these do not, necessarily, equate to conditions of forced labour, as they are not considered to be instances where one person compels another to work. Where this transpires, a human rights violation will only take place where either a state agent is involved in such compulsion or there is ‘acquiescence in fact’ by the state (Fazenda 2016: 292).

Beyond forced labour

Having considered the various practices that do not legally constitute forced labour, it is now necessary to draw attention to the situations that go beyond instances of work or service, i.e. situations of slavery. Where slavery is present, forced labour is (p.85) often also being compelled, as enslavement is in the main motivated by economic gain.

The relationship between the two practices is reflected in the 1926 Slavery Convention, which calls on countries ‘to take all necessary measures to prevent compulsory or forced labour from developing into conditions analogous to slavery’ (Slavery Convention 1926: Preamble and Article 5). This is not to say that forced labour is no longer present, but rather that it is often subsumed by the more serious manifestations of slavery.

While the internationally recognised definition of slavery is rather refractory and inelegant, scholars and practitioners have worked to provide it with clarity by way of the 2012 Bellagio-Harvard Guidelines on the Legal Parameters of Slavery. Similarly to the 1930 definition of forced labour, the legal definition initially set out in the 1926 Slavery Convention remains the legal standard by which to measure, in this instance, what constitutes slavery. It reads (Article 1(1)): ‘slavery is the status or condition of a person over whom any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership are exercised’.

In 2016, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights considered this definition to be based on two fundamental elements: 1) ‘the status or condition of an individual … refers to both de jure and de facto situations’, in other words, that a person need not be legally owned but can be held in a condition of slavery; and 2) ‘the exercise of the attributes of property rights’ (Fazenda 2016: 269–70). Here, the Inter-American Court elevated the 2012 Bellagio-Harvard Guidelines from an academic suggestion to a legal pronouncement, as it reproduced and endorsed the Guidelines’ reading of the exercise of the powers attached to the right of ownership, which:

should be understood as constituting control over a person in such a way as to significantly deprive that person of his or her individual liberty, with the intent of exploitation through the use, management, profit, transfer or disposal of that person. Usually this exercise will be supported by and obtained through means such as violent force, deception and/or coercion.

In regard to this ‘property’ element, the Court noted that it ‘must be understood in the phenomenon of slavery as “possession”, that is, the demonstration of control of one person over another. Therefore, when determining the level of control required to consider an act as slavery … it could be equated with the loss of agency or a fundamental diminution of autonomy’ (Fazenda 2016: 271).

Beyond establishing that a person need not be legally owned in order to be enslaved, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights demonstrated that slavery is fundamentally about an overarching control that prevents a person from walking away. Once that control is established, a person in the condition of slavery can be bought or sold, used, managed, profited from, or even used to exhaustion (Bellagio-Harvard 2012). With this in mind, it should be recognised that an exercise of (p.86) control below this threshold can still be captured by the elements of the definition of forced labour.

The distinction between forced labour and slavery is that the latter is all-consuming. Enslavement not only entails – in a worst-case scenario – forced labour or service, but also effectively ensures that a person has no say in the other facets of her or his life. This level of control is equivalent to ownership, i.e. the type of despotic control that vitiates a human being’s agency or autonomy. Taking this into consideration, a situation of forced labour may also constitute slavery, if forced labour is accompanied by an overarching control beyond the workplace, extending to fundamental control over a person’s life choices.

This is most evident in situations where a person, depending on the nature of their work, is also living in their workplace. In such cases, if forced labour is present, enslavement also becomes a possibility. This vulnerability is mostly manifested in the context of foreign domestic workers or seafarers, which often involves particular features – including gender, class, nationality and language – that may be leveraged by an employer to establish the conditions for overarching control of the type recognised as enslavement. The same can be applied to situations where an employer provides ancillary services reaching beyond the workplace, such as accommodation, food or transportation.

Where empirical research is confronted with instances of enslavement, this need not be a barrier to also recognising forced labour. The method for determining the contours of forced labour holds: consider the situation in light of the baseline understanding of forced labour, with its three defining elements. Where there is doubt or emphasis placed on forced labour, one may wish to provide a justification for why consideration is being given to forced labour rather than slavery.

Building on the baseline

There are many benefits to utilising the definition of forced labour that was originally set out in the 1930 Forced Labour Convention to form a baseline understanding of the concept. When using a baseline definition with the intention of maintaining standards of rigour required by academic enquiry, it is worth emphasising that generalities about whether certain practices or institutions constitute forced labour should be avoided. In other words, methodological rigour can be achieved by considering specific cases where, as we have seen, a person compels another to work against her or his will. This approach will speak to a valid finding, rather than a general, sweeping claim that an institution or practice such as child begging is, by its very nature, a manifestation of forced labour. Thus, caution is required when making claims in the aggregate without substantiating such assertions or, where need be, qualifying them.

(p.87) Further caution should be exerted when basing research on standards beyond the agreed definition of forced labour. Take, for instance, the 2012 ILO Indicators of Forced Labour, prepared by the ILO’s Special Action Programme for Combating Forced Labour, which are meant to assist those at the coalface in ‘identifying persons who are possibly trapped in forced labour situations’. ‘These indicators’, the ILO notes, ‘represent the most common signs or “clues” that point to possible existence of a forced labour case’ (ILO 2012: 2). While there is great value in these indicators, they nevertheless lack the sense of specificity required for asserted claims in humanities or social science research. In other words, while these indicators capture possible cases of forced labour, they cast a very wide net and, in doing so, also risk capturing situations that should not be considered as forced labour. A quick examination of these indicators is beneficial for assisting in the triage phase, before determining whether or not certain cases fall under the category of forced labour.

The ILO set out eleven indicators as ‘the main possible elements of a forced labour situation, and hence … the basis to assess whether or not an individual worker is a victim of this crime’ (ILO 2012: 3). While this claim may in and of itself be too strong, the following indicators are helpful for identifying potential cases where forced labour is present:

  • abuse of vulnerability;

  • deception;

  • restriction of movement;

  • isolation;

  • physical and sexual violence;

  • intimidation and threats;

  • retention of identity documents;

  • withholding of wages;

  • debt bondage;

  • abusive working and living conditions;

  • excessive overtime.

It is worth pointing the reader to the commentary accompanying each of these ILO Indicators of Forced Labour, as they provide a framework for understanding the means by which forced labour is induced, or the methods used by those who seek to compel forced labour. Yet, reference to the last of these indicators, excessive overtime, brings into focus the distinction between an indicator of forced labour and forced labour. The commentary to this indicator reads:

Forced labourers may be obliged to work excessive hours or days beyond the limits prescribed by national law or collective agreement. They can be denied breaks and days off, having to take over the shifts and working hours of colleagues who are absent, or by being on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

(p.88) The determination of whether or not overtime constitutes a forced labour offence can be quite complex. As a rule of thumb, if employees have to work more overtime than is allowed under national law, under some form of threat (e.g. the threat of dismissal) or in order to earn at least the minimum wage, this amounts to forced labour.

After reading the first section of this chapter, which breaks down the three cornerstones of the definition of forced labour, it should be quite clear that what is described in this ILO commentary is not in fact forced labour. While it is accurate to say that a ‘forced labourer may be obliged to work excessive hours’, the reverse does not hold true: excessive hours do not constitute forced labour – unless by ‘obliged’ one means compelled by means of threat to work against one’s will. Likewise, in regard to the second paragraph quoted above, forced labour does not arise ‘if employees have to work more overtime than is allowed under national law’ or ‘in order to earn at least the minimum wage’; rather, these assertions would only hold true as forced labour if they transpired ‘under some form of threat (e.g. of dismissal)’ and where labour was not voluntarily offered. While these indicators may point to instances of exploitative labour or violations of national laws and international labour standards, their presence does not necessarily generate instances of forced labour.

Conclusion: the rationale for the legal definition as a baseline understanding

This chapter will conclude by providing a rationale for why the 1930 international legal definition should be used as a baseline for understanding what constitutes forced labour, be it in the humanities, the social sciences or beyond. This rationale is founded on the process by which states pass laws that shape societal norms and set legal standards for common conduct. The liberal international order recognises that establishing control over a territory and population, and being recognised by other states as having an effective government (democratic or otherwise), are essential constituents of modern states. Only then is an entity granted the right to speak on behalf of its citizenry in the determination of the normative content of the international order as expressed through international, legal, standards. Ordinarily the determination of those standards takes place through direct negotiations by diplomats, i.e. representatives of states.

However, where forced labour is concerned, it is not only the representatives of states who have a seat at the negotiating table. The ILO has a unique tripartite system of governance, wherein it is not only representatives of states that have a say in the elaboration of international standards – be they treaties or recommendations – but also representatives of employers and workers. Once an agreement is reached on a particular issue, for instance the 1930 Forced Labour Convention or its 2014 Protocol, then it is up to each state to consider whether or not it wishes to be party (p.89) to this agreement, and to thus take on its requirements and integrate them into its domestic legal system. In the case of the 1930 Convention, 178 of 194 countries agreed to do so, and are thus required to incorporate the ILO’s understanding of forced labour within their domestic framework, making it ‘punishable as a penal offence’ and ensuring that those ‘penalties imposed by law are really adequate and are strictly enforced’ (Article 25). Thus, for more than 85 years, a consensus has been maintained with regards to what constitutes forced labour, at both international and national levels.

There may be many challenges to the legitimacy of the international political process, including the colonial nature of the ‘international community’ as constituted in the 1930s and with regards to the plurality of various states’ political systems. Furthermore, the legal definition of forced labour, including its fundamental, built-in exceptions and its original focus on legitimising coerced colonial labour, is ripe for disagreement. Yet, despite their limitations, the standards set by the 1930 ILO Convention ultimately find legitimacy in the fact that 178 countries have, through their domestic legislative process, accepted them as a binding legal instrument for their societies. Against the background of this consensus, researchers can forge ahead with their own readings of forced labour, but they do so at the risk of losing the methodological benefits of speaking a common language. This is not to say that the standard of the 1930 ILO definition is somehow ‘correct’ or ‘right’, but rather that it offers a baseline definition to use, critique and engage with. This baseline understanding ultimately provides a standard from which to explore forced labour – a starting point, rather than an end point – when conducting sound and rigorous research in the humanities or social sciences.

With this in mind, the following is a summary of practical points meant to assist those researching in the humanities or social sciences in developing a baseline understanding of forced labour.

(p.90) Ten Practical Points for Understanding Forced Labour

  1. 1 The ILO definition of forced or compulsory labour includes three elements: ‘All work or service which is exacted under menace of any penalty for its non-performance and for which the worker concerned does not offer himself voluntarily.

  2. 2 Forced labour is not absolutely prohibited; rather it is circumscribed, with exceptions allowing for specific public purposes: military conscription, civic duty, penal labour, emergency assistance, and community service.

  3. 3 Forced labour transpires through a working relationship.

  4. 4 A ‘menace of any penalty’ is any threat, be it direct or implicit, physical or otherwise, aimed at an employee and which is meant to compel labour.

  5. 5 The ability of a person to ‘offer himself or herself voluntarily’ will be negated by any means or methods of coercion used by an employer to compel labour.

  6. 6 Where any of the three elements of the definition are not present, neither is forced labour.

  7. 7 Degrading, exploitative or harsh labour will not, in and of itself, constitute forced labour.

  8. 8 Forced labour does not manifest itself by compulsion brought on by economic necessity; rather, the menace of a penalty needs to be attributable to a person or persons.

  9. 9 Forced labour will constitute a human rights violation where a state agent is involved or where forced labour is transpiring and is brought to the attention of the state, that state fails to investigate with due diligence.

  10. 10 A situation of forced labour will also constitute slavery, if the forced labour is accompanied by an overarching control beyond the workplace, extending to fundamental control over a person’s daily life and life choices.

1930 Forced Labour Convention

Article 1

  1. 1 Each Member of the International Labour Organization which ratifies this Convention undertakes to suppress the use of forced or compulsory labour in all its forms within the shortest possible period …

Article 2

  1. 1 For the purposes of this Convention the term ‘forced or compulsory labour’ shall mean all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily.

  2. 2 Nevertheless, for the purposes of this Convention the term ‘forced or compulsory labour’ shall not include:

    1. (a) Any work or service exacted in virtue of compulsory military service laws for work of a purely military character;

    2. (b) Any work or service which forms part of the normal civic obligations of the citizens of a fully self-governing country;

    3. (c) Any work or service exacted from any person as a consequence of a conviction in a court of law, provided that the said work or service is carried out under the supervision and control of a public authority and that the said person is not hired to or placed at the disposal of private individuals, companies or associations;

    4. (d) Any work or service exacted in cases of emergency, that is to say, in the event of war or of a calamity or threatened calamity, such as fire, flood, famine, earthquake, violent epidemic or epizootic diseases, invasion by animal, insect or vegetable pests, and in general any circumstance that would endanger the existence or the well-being of the whole or part of the population;

    5. (e) Minor communal services of a kind which, being performed by the members of the community in the direct interest of the said community, can therefore be considered as normal civic obligations incumbent upon the members of the community, provided that the members of the community or their direct representatives shall have the right to be consulted in regard to the need for such services.

(p.92) Protocol of 2014 to the Forced Labour Convention, 1930

Article 1

  1. 1 In giving effect to its obligations under the Convention to suppress forced or compulsory labour, each Member shall take effective measures to prevent and eliminate its use, to provide to victims protection and access to appropriate and effective remedies, such as compensation, and to sanction the perpetrators of forced or compulsory labour.

  2. 2 Each Member shall develop a national policy and plan of action for the effective and sustained suppression of forced or compulsory labour in consultation with employers’ and workers’ organizations, which shall involve systematic action by the competent authorities and, as appropriate, in coordination with employers’ and workers’ organizations, as well as with other groups concerned.

  3. 3 The definition of forced or compulsory labour contained in the Convention is reaffirmed, and therefore the measures referred to in this Protocol shall include specific action against trafficking in persons for the purposes of forced or compulsory labour.


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