Forced Labour

What do you know about Forced Labour FAQs and South Africa and the law? Find out more on about bonded labour, labor trafficking, child slaves, child slave labor
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The South African constitution states that no one may be subjected to slavery, servitude or forced labour. No person may cause, demand or impose forced labour on another person. This is illegal.

What is forced labour?

Forced labour may take different forms, but essentially it is about a person or a group of people being forced to work against their will. They may be threatened with dismissal if they refuse to do certain work, or even violence. Sometimes their personal items such as Identity Documents and cash are taken away, so that they are helpless to escape their circumstances.

The International Labour Organisation defines forced labour as "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".

Forms of forced labour include:

  • Restrictions on freedom of movement 
  • Confiscation of identity documents or passports
  • Threats of exposure to immigration authorities (if the worker is an immigrant)
  • Creating indebtedness and manipulation of debts 
  • Forced overtime accompanied by threats of dismissal for non-compliance

Is this a a global problem?

Yes. Forced labour is a global problem, affecting almost all countries in the world. There are currently an estimated 12.3 million persons in forced labour. Of these, more than 2.4 million are in forced labour as a result of human trafficking. Most victims are poverty-stricken people in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Many adult and child domestic workers are found in forced labour situations.

What about in South Africa?

According to a Maplecroft Human Rights report, “South Africa is a hub of human trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation and forced labour. Women and girls are trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation, domestic service and jobs in the service sector, while the trafficking of young men and boys for forced labour is widespread in the agricultural and informal sectors. HIV/AIDS has also increased the number of children who need to support themselves and their siblings.”

Who can I contact for help?

If you suspect an individual or company of performing child labour or forced labour, you can contact your local police or: 

Child Welfare South Africa 

Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre to end violence against women

Regulations on forced labour


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