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  • Writer's pictureGenie Boynton

What Exactly is Labor Trafficking?

We talk a lot about the different types of human trafficking and most of the time when someone thinks of human trafficking our minds immediately think of sex trafficking. Today, we're going to talk about labor trafficking. Simply stated, labor trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery. Victims of labor trafficking perform labor, or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion.

According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, labor trafficking situations can include debt bondage, forced labor, and involuntary child labor. Traffickers often use violence, threats, lies, and other forms of coercion in order to force people to work.

Labor trafficking is found across many industries. Common scenarios include domestic servants in homes, farm workers, and factory workers, just to name a few.


It is estimated that there are 24.9 million people trapped in force labor. Below, you will find a chart from NHTH that shows the states with the highest number of labor trafficking as well as a break down of gender, age, and citizenship status.

The US Department of Labor has identified 148 goods from 76 countries that are made by forced and child labor. The list can be found HERE.

Knowing the signs of labor trafficking is vital to awareness, prevention, and eradication of human trafficking.


Someone may be experiencing labor trafficking or exploitation if they:

  • Feel pressured by their employer to stay in a job or situation they want to leave

  • Owe money to an employer or recruiter or are not being paid what they were promised or are owed

  • Do not have control of their passport or other identity documents

  • Are living and working in isolated conditions, largely cut off from interaction with others or support systems

  • Appear to be monitored by another person when talking or interacting with others

  • Are being threatened by their boss with deportation or other harm

  • Are working in dangerous conditions without proper safety gear, training, adequate breaks, or other protections

  • Are living in dangerous, overcrowded, or inhumane conditions provided by an employer

People may be vulnerable to trafficking if they:

  • Have an unstable living situation

  • Have previously experienced other forms of violence such as sexual abuse or domestic violence

  • Have run away or are involved in the juvenile justice or child welfare system

  • Are undocumented immigrants

  • Are facing poverty or economic need

  • Have a caregiver or family member who has a substance use issue

  • Are addicted to drugs or alcohol




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