21st Century quasi-slave labour in Asia

While poor urban children are still treated as slaves or indentured labor, some of their fathers remain little more than draught animals. The rickshaw has always been a notorious emblem of the degradation of labor in Asia. Invented in Japan in the 1860s, it allowed “human animals” to replace mule carts and horse-drawn carriages as the chief means of transportation in the great cities of East and South Asia. Except in Japan, rickshaws survived even the competition of streetcars after the First World War because of their convenience, low cost, and role as status “passports” of the petty bourgeoisie. (“People tended to think,” wrote the 1920s Beijing novelist Xi Ying, “‘if you don’t even have a private rickshaw, what on earth are you?’”) Pulling a rickshaw was reckoned the harshest form of urban labour, and, in Shanghai at least, most pullers (lucky to earn the equivalent of ten cents a day) perished of heart attacks or tuberculosis within a few years.

 Davis, Mike. Planet of Slums (pp. 188-189). Verso. Kindle Edition.

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