Differences between Ancient Slavery and Modern Slavery

December 2 is observed as International Day for the Abolition of Slavery to eradicate the institution of slavery worldwide. But the figures show an increase in modern slavery.
Differences between Ancient Slavery and Modern Slavery
Differences between Ancient Slavery and Modern Slavery

The United Nations Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others was adopted by the General Assembly on December 2, which is recognized as International Day for the Abolition of Slavery.

This day is dedicated to ending modern-day slavery, including forced marriage, human trafficking, sexual exploitation, the worst types of child labor, and the forced recruitment of children for use in armed conflict.

According to the International Labor Organization's (ILO) most recent estimates, forced labor and forced marriage have significantly increased over the previous five years. 50 million people worldwide were estimated to be in modern slavery in 2021, 10 million more than the estimated number in 2016. Children and women continue to be disproportionately vulnerable.

But what is Modern Slavery and how it is different from Ancient Slavery?

Differences between Ancient Slavery and Modern Slavery

Ancient Day Slavery

From the earliest known recorded evidence in Sumer to the pre-medieval Mediterranean cultures, slavery in the ancient world included a combination of debt slavery, slavery as a form of punishment for crime, and the enslavement of prisoners of war.

Most slaves were forced to work in agriculture and industry due to the institution of slavery, and they had difficult lives. Slaves played a significant role in the economy of many of these societies; in particular, the Roman Empire and some of the Greek poleis based much of their wealth on the conquest of slaves.

Forms of Ancient Slavery

Besides manual labor, slaves performed many domestic services and might be employed at highly skilled jobs and professions. Teachers, accountants, and physicians were often slaves. Greek slaves in particular might be highly educated. Unskilled slaves, or those condemned to slavery as punishment, worked on farms, in mines, and at mills.

Masters could free slaves, and in many cases, such freedmen went on to rise to positions of power. This would include those children born into slavery but who were actually the children of the master of the house. The slave master would ensure that his children were not condemned to a life of slavery.

Chattel slavery

Chattel The most well-known type of slavery is probably slavery, which refers to the ownership of people as property that can be bought, sold, given, and inherited. People who are considered to be enslaved in this situation lack both personal freedom and legal rights to make decisions about their own lives. Egypt held the ancient Hebrews as slaves for many years. Slavery served as a primary source of forced labour for agriculture, household upkeep, and the production of goods in ancient Greece and Rome. Slavery existed in Italy, Russia, France, Spain, and North Africa during the Middle Ages. People who were sold into slavery frequently belonged to a country that had been conquered by another. People who have been sold into slavery throughout history have come from a wide range of nations, ethnic groups, and races.

Bonded Slavery

Bonded labour, also referred to as debt bondage and peonage, occurs when individuals sell their freedom as collateral for a loan or when they inherit a debt from a relative. It can be set up to look like an employment contract, but the work begins with a debt to pay back and discovers that it is impossible to do so after working under typically harsh conditions. Then their servitude becomes unbreakable.

Forced Labour

Any employment relationship, particularly in recent history, in which a person is employed against their will under threat of starvation, imprisonment, violence, including death, or other forms of extreme hardship for either themselves or members of their family is considered forced labor, also known as unfree labor.

Human Trafficking

A person is forced or otherwise coerced into working in the flesh trade when they are owned by another person. Prostitution, pornography, child sex rings, sex tourism, and jobs like strip club dancing and modeling are all connected to this slavery.

Modern Slavery

Institutional slavery that still exists in modern society is referred to as contemporary slavery, also known as modern slavery or neo-slavery. Depending on the method used to calculate the estimate and the definition of slavery being used, estimates of the number of slaves in existence today range from about 38 million to 46 million. There is disagreement over the precise number of slaves because there is no accepted definition of modern slavery, it can be challenging to identify slaves, and reliable statistics are frequently unavailable.

Forms of Modern Slavery


Slavery, forced labour, and sex trafficking are all collectively referred to as "trafficking in persons," "human trafficking," and "modern slavery." Additionally, it is primarily split into two groups:

Sex Trafficking

As a result of force, threats of force, fraud, coercion, or any combination of these, an adult who engages in a commercial sex act like prostitution is a victim of trafficking. A person is engaging in the sex trafficking of an adult if they are involved in recruiting, harbouring, luring, transporting, providing, obtaining, patronizing, soliciting, or maintaining that person for that purpose.

Child Sex Trafficking

It is not necessary to demonstrate the use of force, fraud, or coercion when a child (under the age of 18) is recruited, enticed, harbored, transported, provided, obtained, patronized, solicited, or maintained to perform a commercial sex act. There are no exceptions to this rule; neither cultural nor socioeconomic justifications change the fact that prostitution-related child exploitation constitutes human trafficking.

Forced Labor

There are now more modern forms of forced labour, such as migrant workers who have been trafficked, in addition to more traditional forms of forced labour like bonded labour and debt bondage. These workers are used for economic exploitation of all kinds in the global economy, including work in domestic servitude, the construction industry, the food and apparel industry, the agricultural sector, and forced prostitution.

Child Labour

One out of every ten kids works worldwide. The majority of child labour that takes place today is done so for financial gain. That goes against the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which recognizes “the right of the child to be protected from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child’s education, or to be harmful to the child’s health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development.”

These types of slavery are a result of long-standing prejudice against the most vulnerable members of society, including those who are regarded as belonging to low caste, minor tribal groups, and indigenous peoples.

Several international institutions and organizations have established legally binding protocols to support efforts to end forced labor on a global scale.

Check other important dates and days for December 2022

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