Imagine that you are offered a job overseas. It promises a salary you couldn’t dream of making at home. You’ve heard that the work is difficult and sometimes dangerous, and you’ll have to stay overseas for at least two years with only limited contact with your family. But you have an unexpected need for cash because your kids are sick, or maybe because your family business has gone under, so you decide to apply for the job.
Your new employer, acting through a local labor broker, has demanded that you pay an exorbitant up-front fee before you can start work. You have no choice but to pay it. The job opportunity seems good enough to warrant a bit of risk, so you borrow an amount of money equal to two times your current annual salary.
Banks won’t lend to you, so you have to pay a money lender five percent monthly interest. He requires your family’s house as collateral. You give the money to the labor broker and he arranges your travel.
When you arrive at your destination your passport is immediately taken away, and you are told you owe an additional fee in order to get the job. What’s more, it turns out that the wage is about 25 percent lower than you were promised.
You calculate that this new wage will not allow you to pay back the loan and send money home as you’d promised your family.
You start the job, and are required to work as much as 12 hours a day, seven days a week. Still, you are falling behind, making less money than you need. You can’t leave, because you don’t have your passport. Even if you could leave your job, you’d never be able to pay back your enormous loan. But if you stay you’ll never make enough to survive and support your family.
This scenario is a form of forced labor or modern-day slavery, and it is common in the supply chains of multinational companies from the electronics, apparel, construction and agriculture sectors.