ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Unfree Labour in South Asia

In defiance of specific national legislation and broader state commitments to international conventions, debt bondage continues to pervade agriculture, and has spread into small-scale industry in south Asia. This paper illustrates conditions in brick kilns of Pakistan, drawing attention to the interactions between low wages, debts and insecure shelter in perpetuating bondage for men, women and children, in an otherwise capitalist production system. As in sharecropping agriculture, payment by piece rates in kilns extracts a higher surplus via intensification of labour when low rates compel the use of family labour. Findings are based on rapid assessments at over 100 brick kilns in and around the urban and peri-urban areas of the districts of Hyderabad in Sindh; Multan, Lahore, Rawalpindi in Panjab; and Peshawar and Haripur in NWFP during 2002.

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