Statistics are hard. Unless you’re particularly numerically inclined, they can be confusing and stale. Nonetheless, our brains are hardwired to look for data, for proof, and for… well, stats. In an era of misinformation and “fake news”, statistics give credibility. When used correctly, they’re compelling and inspiring – either by showing improvement or where work is needed.
Human trafficking statistics are particularly tough. Here, you’ll learn how to understand human trafficking statistics and see 5 sources that you can turn to for more information!
This month, Human Trafficking Awareness Month, you’ve probably seen some pretty big numbers thrown around. The International Labor Organization estimates:
million people are trapped in modern-day slavery.
Over half are women and girls.
Almost 25% of these are children.
See – already this article is more trustworthy since there are statistics listed.
When used correctly, statistics are helpful. The tricky thing about this work is the statistics are often complex and not-so-straightforward. Any criminal industry is going to be difficult to quantify. Drug trafficking, theft, sexual assault… they all have the same trouble – how do you keep track of a crime or an industry that is intentionally hidden from public view?
In a typical market, like electronics, you can find information on how many computers were sold last year. From what manufacturer, for how much, and for what profit (more or less). Check the stock market right now and you can get an overview of how that industry is doing around the world.
With trafficking of all kinds – drug trafficking, labor trafficking, sex trafficking, etc – transactions are made away from the public eye. Traffickers aren’t writing their earnings in their tax returns. So how do we know what’s going on? Who can we trust? And what can we do?
First things first – we know that trafficking is a global issue. In some places, it’s not so secret. Young girls are sold for sex on street corners late into the night in countries like Cambodia and Thailand. This isn’t a question of IF, it’s how and how many.
Next, we know that there are many people, organizations, governments, and businesses working to end trafficking and all kinds of modern-day slavery. Every day, smart and motivated entities are gathering data, researching new approaches, and providing new resources to the public to expand general awareness of the issue. When we work together and utilize the resources that are available, we are better equipped to fight and end trafficking.
Finally, as new information constantly becomes available, we can take an extra minute to find out how the information came about and where it’s coming from. Do a quick Google search for “human trafficking statistics” and you will see different numbers on almost every page. A little background knowledge will help you distinguish between numbers and information. Some might look contradictory on the surface, but they might just be explaining different things.
Earlier in this article, we said that almost 50 million people were trapped in modern-day slavery in 2021. Other sources in your Google search may have said “27.6 million people are trafficked around the world.” These statistics actually come from the same source. The International Labor Organization breaks “Modern Day Slavery” into “Forced Labor” and “Force Marriage”. Forced Labor is inclusive of sexual exploitation or involuntary prostitution. We tend to use the larger, more broad statistic because we have worked with situations of forced marriage, so we see this statistic as more encompassing of all of our work.
Why does it matter? Having accurate data and statistics on trafficking helps us to gauge our progress and turns our attention to where people need help the most. It’s easy to be discouraged by increasing numbers. But, this information can drive us that much more! Even as this evil persists, more and more people are joining in the fight against it. Survivors are being empowered to tell their stories and break the cycle of exploitation in their communities. Families and communities are being transformed by love. Together, we are making an impact in this fight. Read more here on 3 easy ways to get involved in the fight against trafficking today!
So, let’s agree to check our sources. Let’s work to have an accurate view of this issue and then, being well-informed and equipped, let’s get to work and end it.
We’ve walked through a lot of what you “should” do when looking at statistics and information regarding trafficking. Now, we’ve done a little of that work for you! Here’s a list of some resources that we find particularly helpful. Do you know of one that we missed? Let us know!
- The International Labour Organization list of Facts and Figures – the ILO is the leading expert in forced labor and modern slavery statistics. Their work is quoted by most organizations and agencies. Find the full report, “Global Estimates of Modern Slavery” here.
- The Forced Labor Observatory – recently launched by the ILO, the FLO is a valuable resource to see how different countries and regions are addressing human trafficking in their area.
- The Trafficking in Persons Report – released by the United States Department of State every year, the Trafficking in Persons Report is the most consistently released document that we’ve found. Learn more about how to understand this complex document here.
- The National Human Trafficking Hotline – run by the Polaris Project, the National Human Trafficking Hotline has great resources and information about trafficking in the United States. Since they run the hotline, they have valuable data on trafficking per state and more.
- The Global Report on Trafficking in Persons – this report is released by the United Nations and gives slightly different information than the documents above. However, the most recent report quotes data from 2018, so it is slightly less up-to-date than the Global Estimates document above.