NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 15, 2005

Human trafficking is the coerced movement of people across borders. Although some victims are literally kidnapped, most leave their homes voluntarily. The worldwide trade in persons has been estimated at $7 billion annually and the total illicit profits produced by trafficked forced laborers in one year equals $32 billion, says Foreign Policy's David Feingold.

Some characteristics of human trafficking:

  • Labor trafficking is more widespread than the commonly thought sex trade.
  • In Asia, of the 9.5 million victims of forced labor, less than 10 percent are trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation.
  • Worldwide, less than half of all victims are part of the sex trade.

Tightening borders will not stop trafficking, says Feingold, instead, it has forced many desperate people to turn to smuggling:

  • Trafficking is a big business, controlled by disorganized crime -- individuals or small groups linked on an ad hoc basis.
  • In the Netherlands, Australia and Germany -- where prostitution is legalized -- trafficking rates are low, but in Sweden -- where prostitution is banned -- prostitutes are exposed to more dangerous clients and less safe-sex practices.
  • There is little evidence that prosecution or sanctions will stop traffickers; between 2001 and 2003, 110 traffickers were prosecuted, but only 77 were convicted or pled guilty.

The trade of human lives is as old as the laws of supply and demand and even though, trafficking may answer a demand, the cost is too steep for this ever shrinking world to bear, says Feingold.

Source: David A. Feingold, "Human Trafficking," Foreign Policy, September/October 2005.


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