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Human Trafficking Center

About the Problem

What is Human Trafficking?


Human Trafficking: The recruitment and/or movement of someone within or across borders, through the abuse of power/position with the intention of forced exploitation, commercial or otherwise.


The first U.S. law on human trafficking — the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) breaks down human trafficking into three elements: Action, Means, and Purpose

.How trafficking breaks down infographic


What are the types of trafficking

Although the TVPA broadly separates trafficking into labor and sexual exploitation, more specific forms of trafficking include domestic servitude, forced marriage, child soldiering, forced begging, forced criminal activity, and organ trafficking. Debt bondage is often a means to various forms of trafficking. Read the HTC’s definitions here.

Labor exploitation can be state-imposed or occur in the private economy. State-imposed exploitation might include, for example, uncompensated prison labor or state-run forced labor camps.


Types of human trafficking

Who is vulnerable to trafficking?

Displaced persons, minorities and other marginalized groups are vulnerable to human trafficking. Impoverished populations and victims and survivors of interpersonal violence and homelessness are also at increased risk. Traffickers often take advantage of these individuals’ vulnerabilities and unmet needs.

Within labor and commercial sexual exploitation, children make up about 25 percent of those victimized.



whos is being trafficked? infographic


Who are traffickers?

Traffickers can be any age, gender, ethnicity or nationality. In many cases traffickers are related to or are close acquaintances of those they are exploiting.


How many people are trafficked?

Estimates on how many people are trafficked globally vary from 20 to 37 million. The HTC considers the ILO’s number to be most methodologically reliable — 20.9 million. However, even the best estimates likely have some degree of inaccuracy since it’s difficult to measure activity within illicit markets. Additionally many individuals who are trafficked don’t identify as such, often because of fear or unfamiliarity with the concept of trafficking.


How much money is made from human trafficking?

The ILO estimates human trafficking generates $150.2 billion in illegal profits each year. More than one-third of these profits are from forced labour exploitation and the remaining two-thirds from sexual exploitation.


profits made from human trafficking infographic


These profits are highest in Asia and in developed economies due to the high number of victims in the Asia-Pacific region (11.7 million) and the high profit per victim in developed economies ($34,800 per victim). Victims of sexual exploitation garner the highest profits for traffickers, at a global average of $21,800 per victim.


Why is the HTC’s work important?

Unlike other more established fields such as domestic violence or sexual assault, the solutions to trafficking are not yet clearly understood. Human trafficking is a young field lacking a developed body of research. The HTC critiques research designs and conducts its own methodologically sound research. The HTC is preparing its associates for careers in research and advocacy by building a foundation of academic rigor that matches its associates’ passion for ending all forms of human trafficking.