Disclosure: Human Rights Careers may be compensated by course providers.

10 Facts about Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is one of the fastest growing industries in the world even as people become more aware of the problem. What fuels the growth of modern slavery? Who is the most vulnerable? And where is it happening? Here are 10 facts about human trafficking:

#1. The causes of human trafficking are complex

While many may be under the impression that human trafficking is driven by poverty, there are in fact many factors at play. Things like a lack of education, government corruption, political instability, war, and a lack of human rights protections all contribute. Human trafficking is caused by a tapestry of issues all working together.

#2. Human trafficking is a global issue, but certain countries are worse

Human trafficking isn’t limited to certain areas of the world. It’s found on every continent. The United States measures global human trafficking and classifies countries as Tier 1, Tier 2, or Tier 3, with Tier 3 indicating countries that are doing the least to address the issue. Countries like Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, and Iran have been Tier 3 since 2011. Within the United States, human trafficking is most prevalent in Texas, Florida, New York, and California. Human trafficking is also very common in Las Vegas, Nevada.

#3. Human trafficking is a multi-billion dollar industry

One of the reasons why addressing human trafficking is so challenging is because it brings in so much money. According to a 2014 report from the International Labor Organization, human trafficking is worth $150 billion a year. Since trafficking has been growing, it’s likely worth more now. The majority of human trafficking profits come from sexual exploitation, but billions also come from trafficked people working in manufacturing, construction, mining, and other forced labor.

#4. Women and girls are most often exploited for sex work

According to 2016 ILO stats, 99% of sex trafficking victims are women and girls. The vast majority of trafficked women and girls are found in Asia and the Pacific (over 70%), while Europe has 14% and the Americas have 4%.

#5. In the US, children raised in foster care are especially vulnerable

The FBI reports that children raised in foster care are at an increased risk of being trafficked. These kids lack a strong family support system to protect them and are at a higher risk of running away and becoming enslaved. According to 2017 stats from National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, 1/7 kids reported missing were likely caught in sex trafficking and of those 1/7, 88% were in child welfare.

#6. Native American women are at a higher risk

Women are at a higher risk of being trafficked, and within that group, native women are especially vulnerable. In Phoenix, Arizona, a 2015 report from the National Congress of American Indians estimated that native women made up 40% of sex trafficking victims. In 2016, the National Crime Information Center reported that around 5,700 American Indian and Alaska Native women and girls went missing.

#7. Migrants are vulnerable

Migrants leaving areas of conflict are at an increased for being trafficked. They have very few resources and very few options. In order to get out of a dangerous area, migrants become desperate, which creates opportunities for traffickers to offer “help” with travel arrangements and jobs. Instead, migrants end up enslaved. According to the UN’s special rapporteur on human trafficking, trafficking migrants is something that occurs “on a regular basis.”

#8. Most trafficked people stay in their own country

Only 1 in 10 trafficked people are moved out of their own countries. The majority stay inside their own borders. When a trafficking victim is moved, it’s usually out of a less developed country to a wealthier area, so the traffickers can bring in more profit. While it’s more complicated to move trafficking victims to another country, it shows just how organized and connected the human trafficking industry has become.

#9. Both men and women are traffickers

In terms of who is trafficking people, both men and women are responsible. In fact, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, in 30% of the countries that gave out gender information on traffickers, more women were actually responsible. With sex trafficking, women who themselves have been trafficked often end up continuing the cycle of trafficking, manipulating the trust of other victims.

#10. Major companies benefit from child labor

A handful of big corporations depend on suppliers that use child labor and despite many promises to address the problem, little has been done. These corporations include Nestle, Hershey’s, and Nike. According to the Bureau of International Labor Affairs (US Department of Labor), items most likely to be produced by child labor or forced labor include: bamboo from Mayanmar; bananas from Brazil; brassware from India; cocoa from Cameron; and cotton from countries like China, Egypt, India, and Mali.

Learn more about the causes of human trafficking or take a free online course on human rights and migration

About the author

Emmaline Soken-Huberty

Emmaline Soken-Huberty is a freelance writer based in Portland, Oregon. She started to become interested in human rights while attending college, eventually getting a concentration in human rights and humanitarianism. LGBTQ+ rights, women’s rights, and climate change are of special concern to her. In her spare time, she can be found reading or enjoying Oregon’s natural beauty with her husband and dog.