January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “After drug dealing, trafficking of humans is tied with arms dealing as the second-largest criminal industry in the world.”
People fall victim to trafficking for many reasons. Some may simply be seeking a better life, a promising job, or even an adventure. Others may be poverty stricken and forced to migrate for work, or they may be marginalized by their society.
An estimated 20 million men, women and children around the world are victims of what is now often described with the umbrella term “human trafficking.”
Most people think only about how much they will earn from a job. But for people desperate to obtain employment to provide for and support their families, a job can also come with extreme costs, sometimes in the form of modern slavery:
- A 15-year-old Indian girl spends three years of her life working in a garment or textile factory, forced to work excessive hours in dangerous conditions, and often subjected to verbal or sexual abuse. At the end of this three-year period, she might receive a payment of approximately $645 – $860, which would be used as a dowry to give to the family of her future husband.
- An undocumented Guatemalan worker in the United States is forced by traffickers to perform labor that is not covered by the visa provided by his labor broker. He is then forced to repay the broker and travel fees, all while working nearly 80 hours a week for less than minimum wage.
- The cost of a job for Vietnamese migrant workers seeking work abroad may be the equivalent of $4,250 or three times Vietnam’s per capita income. When they go abroad, some of these workers have debts that exceed the earnings they expect in the first year of typical three-year contracts.
Victims of forced labor lose an estimated $20 billion of earnings every year.
Source: Trafficking in Persons Report, U.S. Government; International Labour Organization