The Absence of Decent Work: The Continued Development of Forced and Unfree Labour in India


  • Jamie Morgan Leeds Beckett University
  • Wendy Olsen University of Manchester



The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has developed a concept of decent work and set this as a standard in 1999. However, in many places in the world people labour under conditions that are far from ‘decent’. Many people are subject to forced labour and experience unfreedoms, which raises important theoretical and practical issues. In this contribution we set out some of the ways in which forced labour manifests and how it has been changing over recent years in India. India is of particular interest because, according to the ILO, Asia, and India within Asia, has more victims of forced labour than any other region. India illustrates that specific structures of social relations underpin one’s vulnerability to becoming a victim of forced labour. It illustrates also that forms of forced labour integrate into and develop within capitalism. Although neo-liberal policy prescriptions are formally opposed to forced labour, the neo-liberal capitalist system also facilitates its reproduction and spread.

Author Biographies

Jamie Morgan, Leeds Beckett University

Reader in economics, Leeds Beckett University; School of Accountancy Finance and Economics, coordinator of Association for Heterodox Economics, co-editor Real World Economics Review

Wendy Olsen, University of Manchester

Senior Lecturer in Socio-Economic Research

Social Statistics Discipline Area

University of Manchester



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