Adapted from: http://www.freetheslaves.net/Page.aspx?pid=301 1. Although many people believe that slavery no longer exists, changes in the world’s economy and societies over the past 50 years have enabled a reappearance of slavery. Three trends have contributed most to the rise of modern slavery. The first, a recent population explosion, has tripled the amount of people in the world, with most growth taking place in the developing world. The second, rapid social and economic changes, has displaced many to urban centers and their outskirts, where people are powerless and without job security. The third, government corruption around the world, allows slavery to go unpunished, even though it is illegal everywhere. In this way millions have become vulnerable to a new form of slavery. This new slavery has two prime characteristics that differentiate it from the slavery of the past: slaves today are cheap and they are disposable.
2. In Old Slavery, also called chattel slavery, slaves were extremely expensive to purchase and often yielded low profits for their owners. Since there was always a shortage of potential slaves, and enormous costs associated with transporting them from one continent to another, those already enslaved were considered investments and held for generations. Their health was generally maintained (at basic levels) and it was of enormous importance to assert ownership over this valuable ‘property’. Slave-owners took great pains to emphasize the ethnic differences between themselves and their investment.
3. New Slavery turns each of these characteristics on its head. An average slave in the American South in 1850 cost the equivalent of $40,000 in today’s money; today a slave costs an average of $90. In 1850 it was difficult to capture slaves and then transport them to the US. Today, millions of economically and socially vulnerable people around the world are potential slaves. This “supply” makes slaves today cheaper than they have ever been. Since they are so cheap, slaves are no longer a major investment worth maintaining. Thus, they are often maltreated. If slaves get sick, are injured, outlive their usefulness, or become troublesome to the slaveholder, they are dumped or killed. For most slave-holders, actually owning the slave is an inconvenience since they already maintain total control over the individual’s labor and profits. The slave-holder cares more about these high profits than whether the holder and slave are of different ethnic backgrounds; in new slavery, profit is more important than skin color. Finally, new slavery is directly connected to the global economy. As in the past, most slaves are forced to work in agriculture, mining, and prostitution. From these sectors, their exploited labor flows into the global economy, and into our lives.
Exercises adapted from Annie Ben-Hillel
Modern Slavery I. Comprehension Questions
1. What factors are responsible for the existence of “slavery” today? Fill in the chart with the factors and their explanations.
The number of people in the world has become TWICE / THREE TIMES / FOUR TIMES as high in recent years. This has happened mostly in _______________________________ countries.
Many people today live in __________________________________. They cannot find ______________________ (ONE WORD) there.
Modern slavery is not _______________________ (ONE WORD) by the __________________________ (ONE WORD) around the world.
2. According to paragraph 1, what are two major differences between modern slavery and slavery of the past?
3. What is another term for “old” slavery? ____________________________________
4. According to the information in paragraph 2, why did slave owners in the past take better care of their slaves than today’s slave owners? (Find as many answers as possible.) ___________________________________________________________