For the poor, COVID-19 also means debt and slavery

A debt collection agency in Little Falls, Minnesota. (Photo credit: Tony Webster/Wikimedia Commons)
A debt collection agency in Little Falls, Minnesota. (Photo credit: Tony Webster/Wikimedia Commons)

The world’s impoverished people already shoulder heavy burdens of personal debt.

Then came the COVID-19 pandemic, and jobs everywhere evaporated.

Although this pandemic-driven wave of unemployment is temporary, the financial position of poor people has become even more precarious, making them prey for debt collectors, loan sharks — and slavery.

The scourge of debt collection

The America government’s provision of $1,200 to help people through the economic crisis may be a boon to debt collectors.

In some states, collectors are allowed to dip directly into debtors’ bank accounts and grab whatever money they can to cover obligations.

This is especially painful for lower-income Americans, who often live hand-to-mouth, relying on gig jobs and public assistance to make it through.

There are, however, some ways that the government can prevent this practice from happening, so that debt collectors are blocked from grabbing the funds.

But the IRS and the Treasury Department still aren’t commenting on whether they’ll take action, despite letters from 26 Democratic state attorneys-general.

Sources: NPR, Bloomberg Law

The debt-slaves of India

India’s millions of bonded laborers, living from day to day, rely on moneylenders to tide them through in the best of times.

Now, with nationwide restrictions on movements, on-site day labor jobs have been suspended.

Hundreds of thousands — some say millions — of laborers already fit the classification of debt slaves, as they sell themselves or their children into bondage with compensation to cover monetary obligations.

The illegal practice will most likely become more prevalent as a result of the Indian government’s lockdown to prevent the pandemic’s spread.

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation

Undocumented, and enslaved by the Mafia

Across Europe, foreign agricultural workers, both undocumented and permitted laborers, will not be showing up to sow and pick its crops.

At fault is not just the EU’s pandemic-driven economic crisis, but also crackdown on immigration, to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Italy, France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom each depend on hundreds of thousands of foreign laborers to harvest the crops that feed millions.

This has left some of the world’s most developed countries scrambling for ways to convince their own citizens to do backbreaking agricultural labor.

In France, the government has deployed 5,000 recruiters across the nation to secure enough harvest workers in farming regions.

Part of their goal is to ensure that these farm laborers live locally, to prevent potential spread of the virus.

The pain may be particularly acute in Italy, where Mafia-coordinated slave labor from Africa and the Middle East delivers a major part of the workforce required to harvest tomatoes and other essentials.

Sources: The Financial Times, The Guardian

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