The internationally recognised definition of forced labour is “all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily" (ILO Convention no. 29). The penalty does not have to be physical punishment or constraint – it can take other forms such as denial of pay, benefits or rest periods, or the threat of dismissal.
Child labour performed under particularly exploitative, abusive or dangerous conditions qualifies as forced labour under international law. Some human rights groups argue that all child labour is forced labour, because children are too young to have the capacity to consent to work. Others maintain that children can consent to some types of work.
Debt bondage (or bonded labour) is a form of forced labour. It is often referred to as a modern form of slavery. It exists when workers are forced to work in order to pay off their own or someone else’s debts. Children can be caught in bonded labour when their parents or other adults offer the services of the child as repayment for a debt.