While sex trafficking gets a lot of media attention, labor trafficking is the larger problem globally. Recently, the largest court case ever involving labor trafficking was settled in Mississippi against Signal International. (You can read more about the case here.)
Labor trafficking is not a secret. However, we are just beginning to grasp the scope of the problem and the deep wounds it inflicts on its victims. In The Economist this week, the magazine goes so far as to say “its everywhere:”
Estimates of the number of workers trapped in modern slavery are, inevitably, sketchy. The International Labour Organisation (ILO), an arm of the UN, puts the global total at around 21m, with 5m in the sex trade and 9m having migrated for work, either within their own countries or across borders. Around half are thought to be in India, many working in brick kilns, quarries or the clothing trade. Bonded labour is also common in parts of China, Pakistan, Russia and Uzbekistan—and rife in Thailand’s seafood industry … A recent investigation by Verité, an NGO, found that a quarter of all workers in Malaysia’s electronics industry were in forced labour.
There are a number of things that can be done to stop labor trafficking. The ILO is working on a fair-recruitment protocol, that would eliminate agents (who are often traffickers) and have that protocol ratified by the United Nations and individual countries.
Individuals companies must also take responsibility for keeping trafficking out of their supply chains. To that end, corporations like Coca-Cola and Ford Motor Company have joined with others in Global Business Coalition Against Human (gBCAT.) One control these companies have put into place is using third-party auditors to inspect their supply chains for signs of trafficking.
Those involved in stopping human trafficking admit it is a difficult battle. Desperate and poor people will often choose something terrible over nothing. However, there is hope, as the Mississippi case mentioned above illustrates.