labor trafficking

Human Trafficking 101: What is the Difference Between Labor and Sex Trafficking?

What is Human Trafficking?

The US Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act defines trafficking as the “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.” Human trafficking is a 32 billion dollar global criminal industry exploiting all genders, ages, classes, and nationalities. It is the second largest criminal industry in the world, and though many believe it only occurs outside the US, every state has been an origin, transfer, or destination point. While many forms of human exploitation fall under the human trafficking definition, sexual and labor trafficking are the two most commonly known.

What is Sex Trafficking?

According to the US Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, sex trafficking is the “recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act.” Additionally, children under 18 involved in commercial sex are automatically victims of child sex trafficking under US law.  There are an estimated 4.8 million people sexually exploited worldwide according to the International Labor Organization, and within the US, the National Human Trafficking Hotline recorded 34,700 sex trafficking reports from 2007 to 2017. Since sex trafficking is identifiable along highways and in public areas, it is the most reported form of trafficking.

Sex trafficking hubs include:

  • Hotels & Motels

  • Escort services

  • Strip clubs

  • Massage businesses

  • Truck stops

  • Residential brothels

  • Online advertisements

What is Labor Trafficking?

Labor trafficking is transporting victims by coercion, threat, or fraud to perform labor services. The National Human Trafficking Hotline reported over 7,800 labor trafficking cases within the US since 2007. Labor trafficking is less visible and severely under-reported when compared to sex trafficking, and affects more foreign victims than sex trafficking.  According to the The US Department of Labor forced and child labor produced 148 goods from 75 countries. Motivated by greed and profit, labor trafficking capitalizes on occupations where vulnerable workers such as immigrants, work under threat and inhumane conditions.

Industries involved:

  • Agriculture

  • Horticulture

  • Fishing

  • Construction

  • Mineral

  • Textiles

  • Food service

  • Domestic work

  • Entertainment

  • Health & Beauty

Human trafficking is a local and global problem requiring immediate response, and despite awareness, victim services, and growing database demonstrating the problem, the crisis persists, and it is difficult to know exactly how many fall victim. Traffickers ensnare women and men, young and old, from every background into forced servitude, enduring all manner of psychological, emotional, and physical abuse anywhere from a few days to years. It may seem like a problem too expansive for any individual to solve, but you can do your part to join the fight  against trafficking.

How You Can Help:

  • Always report incidents of suspected trafficking to law enforcement or by contacting the National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1 (888) 373-7888

  • Write to your elected officials to support local, state and federal human trafficking legislation.·  

  • Shop consciously by learning where your products are made and the labor practices there.

  • Donate to and support ECPAT-USA and other organizations fighting to end trafficking.

  • Inform yourself by keeping up with ECPAT-USA’s events and latest news