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Labor Trafficking: Facts, Causes, and Prevention

Author: Bao Pham

Like sex trafficking, labor trafficking is another common form of exploitation. In fact, should commercial sex acts be considered as a form of labor, labor trafficking would be the most common and dangerous human trafficking form of all. Labor trafficking is categorized as modern slavery, which is a serious crime that affects millions of individuals worldwide.  


What is Labor Trafficking? 

Labor trafficking involves the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of persons for labor or services through the use of force, fraud, or coercion. Victims of labor trafficking are subjected to various forms of exploitation, including forced labor, debt bondage, and servitude.  

This exploitation can occur in any industry, but the most common examples of labor trafficking include people forced to work in homes as domestic servants, farmworkers coerced through violence as they harvest crops, or factory workers held in inhumane conditions with little to no pay. Other industries that see a huge amount of labor trafficking include construction and hospitality, in which victims are also treated without respect and income. The following are some facts about this malicious form of human trafficking: 

  • The International Labor Organization and Walk Free Foundation estimate that 24.9 million people are currently trapped in forced labor, with 16 million victims of labor trafficking in private industry and 4.1 million victims of state-imposed forced labor globally. 

  • 148 goods from 76 countries were identified by the U.S. Department of Labor to be made by forced and child labor. 

While having one of the highest percentages in all cases of human trafficking, it is believed that this crime is a lot more rampant than what statistics have found. Traffickers have many ways to prevent victims from voicing their concerns or seeking help, including isolation and forcing victims to tell lies about being students or tourists when confronted. Blackmailing is also very common, making it even harder for victims to seek help from outside. 


Victims of Labor Trafficking 

A similarity that is shared across different forms of human trafficking is how traffickers tend to pick targets based on vulnerability. In the case of labor trafficking, the target is usually individuals who are marginalized, impoverished, or lacking legal protections. This demographic includes the following: 


  • Migrant workers: Migrant workers, especially those with immigration status troubles or limited access to legal protections, are vulnerable to exploitation by employers who exploit their lack of legal rights and fear of deportation. Fear of being deported and the need to earn income force these people to become victims and must accept the terms given by traffickers. 

  • Undocumented Workers: Like migrant workers, individuals who are undocumented or living in the shadows of society are often exploited by traffickers who leverage their fear of deportation to maintain control and coercion. Without authorization to migrate and work legally, these people have no choice but to rely on traffickers, sometimes willingly. 

  • Low-income individuals: The lack of viable employment opportunities in a challenging economy can push individuals into situations where they are susceptible to labor exploitation. Those facing poverty, unemployment, or homelessness may be lured by false promises of job opportunities with better wages. 

  • Marginalized Communities: Ethnic minorities, indigenous peoples, and refugees may face heightened vulnerability to labor trafficking due to systemic discrimination, social exclusion, and lack of access to resources and support. Communities where low literacy is presented are also prone to become victims of this crime. 

  • Women and children: In addition to gated, marginalized communities, it is very common for women and children to fall prey to labor trafficking schemes due to their lack of power and social status in these parts. It is also possible for women and children outside of these communities to become victims, as long as there is some vulnerability. 


Prevent Yourself and Others from Becoming Victims! 

Preventing labor trafficking requires an effort involving awareness, education, advocacy, and collaboration. Here are some steps that you and your community can take to combat this crime: 

  • Raise Awareness: Signs such as unpaid wages, excessive working hours, restricted movement, and withholding of identity documents can be visible indicators of an ongoing labor trafficking crime. It is important that people know about these signs, and communities can further spread awareness through community events, workshops, and educational campaigns. 

  • Know Your Rights: If workers have knowledge about their rights and legal protections, they are less likely to fall victim to scams and exploitation. This can be achieved by familiarizing yourself and others with labor laws, wage standards, and workplace safety regulations. Information about avenues for seeking assistance and reporting abuse should also be made public for victims and potential victims to report violations. 

  • Support Vulnerable Workers: If there’s no vulnerability, people will be less likely to be forced into labor unwillingly. Vulnerable workers should be given access to legal aid, social services, and community resources. NGOs, labor unions, and advocacy groups can be helpful in providing assistance and advocating for those at risk of being exploited. 

  • Advocate for Policy Change: Advocating for stronger labor laws, enforcement mechanisms, and protections for workers will create a change to form an equal ground for everyone to seek fair and legal employment opportunities. Additionally, supporting initiatives aimed at combating labor trafficking, improving labor standards, and holding perpetrators accountable will help reduce the risk of labor trafficking happening. 

  • Report Suspicious Activity: If you suspect labor trafficking or witness exploitative labor practices, report it immediately. Contact local law enforcement, labor authorities, or support hotlines to report tips or seek assistance. Be prepared to provide detailed information and documentation to support investigations. 

Some important hotlines can also be found here if you want to report a case of labor trafficking. If you are a victim or want to help a victim, Because Organization is also ready to help. Refer to our website for more information. 



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