For all our advances as a civilization there still remains a part of our culture which is rooted in tradition. Even the leaps and bounds of technology and machinery have not yet found an ample substitute for human labor. This author seeks to quantify that the details of labor in Colonial America have not changed into the 21st century.
Indentured labor can be defined simply as working under a contract for some period of time in exchange for services like food, shelter or passage. Although passage nowadays is seldom exchanged due to stricter immigration laws, food and shelter are still prevalent in today’s society. There are still agreements to this end being forged to this very day although not documented. A wanderer seeking a roof above his head and a hot meal may barter his services for a day’s work in a farm.
Convict labor is another carry over from the colonial times though the work conditions have drastically improved depending on the laws of the country where it is being enforced. Prisoners are made to work in laundry and the kitchen or other areas to minimize the overhead costs of maintaining a prison.
Wage labor of course is still prevalent as a source of blue and white collar jobs. From the mechanic who fixes a car to the manager of a bank, their services are retained in exchange for monetary income.
Household labor is also still utilized for those people who have no time for the upkeep of their homes. Some come in just to clean while in other countries, they are provided food and shelter along with monetary wages.
Military employment has evolved with the times also. Some armed forces such as the United States offer scholarships along with a paycheck for a couple of years’ service to the corps. There were times in the colonial period where in people where drafted or conscripted into joining the army. Now it is purely voluntary although that might not be the case in some countries.
Seamen nowadays are paid for their services unlike those in the centuries gone by where you could just indenture your services or slave labor. They go through rigorous screening and the shipping companies who hire them process the papers necessary.
Last but not the least is slave labor. This is still widespread in developing countries wherein people cannot migrate lawfully to another. They barter services such work in a sweat shop or prostitution in exchange for “a better life”. The news occasionally reports instances of these like the seizures of cargo containers with mail order brides or the raid of clothing factories employing illegal aliens.
In my opinion these types of labor will remain with our civilization for centuries to come because of the human spirit. In the drive to attain something better for ourselves, we barter what we have to achieve our goals. Whether it is in the form of physical or intellectual labor, until there is a replacement for manpower, it will continue as a necessity.