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Labor Trafficking

Human Trafficking

Labor TraffickingLabor trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery in which individuals perform labor or services through the use of force, fraud, or coercion.

Labor trafficking includes situations of debt bondage, forced labor, and involuntary child labor. Labor traffickers use violence, threats, lies, and other forms of coercion to force people to work against their will in many industries. 

Common types 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. 

Key Statistics:

  • Globally, the International Labor Organization and Walk Free Foundation, in partnership with IOM, estimate that there are 24.9 million people trapped in forced labor with 16 million victims of labor trafficking in private industry, 4.8 million victims of sex trafficking, and 4.1 million victims of state-imposed forced labor.
  • The U.S. Department of Labor has identified 148 goods from 76 countries made by forced and child labor.

In the United States, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) defines labor trafficking as: “The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage or slavery” (22 USC § 7102(9)). See the Federal Laws page for more detailed definitions.

Labor trafficking may be distinguished from other forms of labor exploitation by applying the Action + Means + Purpose Model. Human trafficking occurs when a trafficker takes any one of the enumerated actions, and then employs the means of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of compelling the victim to provide commercial sex acts or labor or services.At a minimum, one element from each column must be present to establish a potential situation of human trafficking. The presence of force, fraud or coercion indicates that the victim has not consented of his or her own free will.

Demand For Labor Trafficking: What You Need To Know

Human trafficking victims make an alarmingly high number of consumer goods and food products, imported to the United States and produced domestically. More often than we realize, elements of forced labor may be present within the supply chain of products we buy or the services we pay for. As economies around the world integrate, it is faster and easier for goods produced with forced labor to enter the global market. In the U.S., labor traffickers exploit and enslave both foreign nationals and U.S. citizens. 

In cases of labor trafficking, consumers provide the demand and profit incentive for traffickers. These consumers can include companies that subcontract certain types of services, end-consumers who buy cheap goods produced by trafficking victims, or individuals who use the services of trafficking victims. By supporting fair pay for workers and basing our purchasing choices on the fair treatment of those who make our products, consumers have the power to reduce the demand for labor trafficking.

The following information on labor trafficking cases is based solely on information learned through the substantive, US-based signals -- phone calls, emails, and online tip reports -- received by the National Human Trafficking Hotline as of December 31, 2019.


Total statistics from 12/7/07 to 12/31/2019.

Since 2007

Total Cases: 9,123
Total Victims - Moderate: 18,792
Cases categorized as “High” contain a high level of indicators of human trafficking. Cases coded as “Moderate” contain several indicators of human trafficking, or resemble common trafficking scenarios but lack core details of force, fraud, or coercion.
Total Victims - High: 20,215
2019 data is current through December 31, 2019.

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