Exploitation of Labour: Meaning and Prevention

On International Workers Day, we commemorate our progress as workers. It's about acknowledging the fought-for freedoms we now possess and honouring those who sacrificed so that we could have them. On this day, we also demonstrate our solidarity as workers by standing up for the rights we all share and raising awareness of the rights that still need to be secured.

We wanted to pause today to remember people who are still fighting for their rights as workers and to talk about some of the unfortunate forms of exploitation that are still common around the globe. Central to our aim of eliminating human trafficking and modern slavery (HTMS) is the improvement of workers' rights globally.

What is the Meaning of Exploitation of Labour?

The practice of utilising authority to consistently take from employees more value than is provided to them is known as labour exploitation. It is a social arrangement built on the unequal distribution of power between employees and employers. Social theory has a direct relationship between consumption and exploitation, which is typically defined as the unfair taking advantage of another person due to their inferior position and giving the exploiter the authority.

What Can be done to Help Prevent Labour Exploitation?

To protect and support the victims of labour exploitation are −

Educate and Aware Them

Learning more about the topic will help you recognise the warning signs of worker exploitation, which is the first action you can take. Finding the warning indicators can help you influence a person's future.

A person might be used as slave labour if they −

Indicate indicators of physical or psychological abuse.

  • They come off as scared, reclusive, or perplexed.

  • Have limited freedom of movement when departing or entering the building. They will almost certainly have company.

  • Are required to reside at the employer's furnished accommodations, which might be crowded. Sometimes persons who are exploited sleep where they are being exploited (factories or car washes).

  • Claim to be unaware of private information.

  • Have no access to or control over their passports or other official documents.

  • Lack the appropriate attire or protective gear.

  • They appear to have a representative who is "coaching" them, and they are paired with coworkers who are of the same nationality, age, and gender.

Report Anything You Deem Suspicious

someone is being forced or exploited, or if you are a victim of human trafficking. You can contact Crimestoppers anonymously to report your suspicions. Additionally, you can report concerns anonymously and privately using The Stop App if you don't believe there is an immediate threat but have noticed anything that doesn't seem right. This can help us create a global picture of what exploitation looks like.

Marxist Theory

One of the key components of Marxian economics is his exploitation theory, which some social theorists believe to be the foundation of Marxist ideology. Marx attributed the idea of a materialist view of history to Scottish Enlightenment thinkers. Marx laid forth the rules for how welfare would be distributed under socialism and communism in his Critique of the Gotha Programme; these rules stipulated that each person would receive assistance in accordance with their effort and needs.

When these two criteria are broken, exploitation occurs because the agents are not compensated in a way that is appropriate for their labour or needs. This process of exploitation happens as independent agents exchange their current productive labour for social labour provided in the products they receive. It is a component of the redistribution of labour. The work invested in producing the goods is embodied in them; therefore, it is exploitation when someone uses their income or earnings to buy a thing at a price that is lower than the sum of their labour-related investments. The labour embodied in the items that make up the net national product (NNP) is equivalent to the labour performed by a population over a specific time period.

Marxist economics holds that, based on the exploitative social relations of the Marxist theory of capitalist production, the exploiters are the agents who are able to command products with revenue from their income that are embodied with more labour than the exploiters themselves have put forth. These agents frequently possess productive assets and have class status, which helps maximise exploitation. Those who receive less than the typical product he or she creates are the ones who are being exploited.

The discrepancy between what is made and what can be purchased cannot be explained by redistribution based on need if workers receive an amount equal to their average product because there is no money left over. As a result, these workers cannot enjoy the fruits of their own efforts. Marxist ideology holds that in a capitalist system, the proletariat is the oppressed group while the bourgeoisie is typically the one doing the exploiting. Marx believed that the exploitation problem existed in all class-based civilizations, not only capitalism.

Surplus Labour and Labour Theory of Value

Surplus labour, capitalist enslavement, feudal labour, and value exchange-value commodity theory: exploiters appropriate another's labour, which is the amount of time that goes above what is required for a worker to be able to reproduce and maintain a basic standard of living. In other words, this means that the employee must be able to maintain living conditions that are sufficient for them to continue working.

Marx makes the point that there are historical records of this appropriation of surplus labour in institutions based on forced labour, such as those based on societies, showing that he is not attempting to attach this exclusively to institutions. The distinction, as he points out, is that in societies like capitalist ones, this appropriation of excess labour takes place in institutions that no longer use forced labour and instead rely on free labour. This is based on Marx's theory, according to which the cost of producing a good is proportional to its cost.

Excess value and overhead Workers in a capitalist economy are compensated in accordance with this value, which is the foundation of all wealth. A good's particular utility to an actor determines its value, and if the good is a consequence of human effort, it must be viewed as the outcome of real, qualitatively defined labour. Workers are only allowed to contribute their own labour to the market, but capitalists are able to buy that labour from them.

When employers can pay workers less than the value created by their efforts, excess labour develops, which leads to the owners of the business making a profit. Marx used the term "exploitation" to refer to what he believed to be the "exact expression for the degree of exploitation of labour-power by capital, or of the labourer by the capitalist." This profit is used by the capitalist to cover costs and for personal enjoyment, but it was primarily used to speed up expansion and hence support a more extensive system of exploitation.


Labour exploitation is the mistreatment of workers or employees usually for the financial gain. The abuse may be overtly severe or much more covert. However, its effects on victims are catastrophic on all fronts—psychologically, physically, emotionally, and financially. Human trafficking may be present if the exploitation also involves limitations on the employee's freedom, such as the ability to have free time, pressure, threats of causing problems for the employee, making up debts or forcing the employee to work for free in order to pay a debt, providing false information, making false promises, or threatening with or actually using violence.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What are the different ways of exploitation?

Ans. The tactics and means by which the consumer is exploited to the fullest extent feasible include adulteration, poor quality, fluctuations in the contents of the pack, use of misleading or fractional weights, deceptive and dishonest advertising, unfair monopolistic, and restrictive trade practises.

Q2. Is exploitation negative or positive?

Ans. The term "exploitation" is most frequently used negatively, especially when it pertains to exploiting humans. It frequently refers to the underpayment and overwork of employees, as well as other forms of labour exploitation by enterprises.

Q3. Who are victims of exploitation?

Ans. It's crucial to keep in mind that everyone who is subject to circumstances that restrict their freedom or their capacity to choose their own course of action qualifies as a victim. Control and compulsion are involved in exploitation yet they may not be immediately obvious.

Updated on: 09-May-2023


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