The Big Picture: How Human Trafficking Affects the Global Economy


Human trafficking is a heart-wrenching crisis that casts a dark shadow across our global community. Experts estimate that this heinous trade ensnares innocent lives, generating a staggering estimated $150 billion in illicit profits annually. Beyond the unimaginable pain and suffering inflicted upon its victims, this horrific practice wreaks havoc on economies, causing profound economic upheaval and distortions. Behind every dollar is a face, a story, a soul scarred by the ruthless greed of traffickers.


What Is Human Trafficking?

Before delving into its economic impacts, it’s crucial to define human trafficking. According to the United Nations, human trafficking is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of persons by means of threat, use of force, or other forms of coercion for the purpose of exploitation. It’s a form of modern-day slavery, with victims often subjected to sexual exploitation, forced labor, or organ removal.


The Economic Impact of Human Trafficking


Drains Public Resources

One major economic impact of human trafficking is the cost to governments for enforcement and victim support. The US Department of Justice spends $90 million to combat human trafficking and support survivors. Experts suggest that over $47 billion is spent globally each year on fighting human trafficking and providing healthcare and other services to victims. Money spent on human trafficking diverts public resources away from other social needs.

Countries must allocate funds to train law enforcement, operate trafficking hotlines, and provide shelters and rehabilitation programs. Trafficked individuals often require medical treatment for physical and psychological trauma. These substantial costs hamper economic progress, especially in developing nations.

Creates Productivity Losses

Human trafficking also results in considerable losses to economic productivity. The International Labour Organization estimates that human trafficking victims lose at least $21 billion annually in unpaid wages and illegal recruitment fees.

People trafficked and forced to work for little or no pay cannot participate generally in the economy. Their lost earnings result in reduced consumer spending and tax revenues. Trafficking also stifles human capital development.

Distorts Labor Markets

In addition, human trafficking distorts labor markets around the world. It creates an environment where workers can be exploited, which depresses wages and worsens conditions.

When employers can access and underpay trafficked laborers, they have less incentive to improve pay and safety for others. The uneven playing field created by human trafficking puts ethical businesses at a disadvantage. It also obstructs economic mobility for vulnerable groups when jobs become filled by coerced trafficking victims.

Undermines Legal Businesses

Illegal businesses that benefit from human trafficking can offer goods and services at a much lower cost, undercutting legal businesses. It harms legitimate businesses and also deprives governments of potential tax revenue.

Reduces Human Capital Development

Victims of human trafficking, especially children, often miss out on education, leading to a loss in human capital. Without education, these individuals are less likely to contribute meaningfully to the economy in the long term.

Impacts International Trade and Relations

Countries known for high rates of human trafficking might face sanctions or reduced trade opportunities. For instance, the US Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report can place countries on a tiered ranking system, influencing foreign aid and trade relations.


Taking Steps to Combat Human Trafficking

Human trafficking isn’t just a crime; it’s an affront to our shared humanity, leaving deep and wide scars. It’s a monstrous violation that demands a united front from governments, organizations, and all of us. While official bodies and non-government organizations (NGOs) are critical pillars in this fight, the power to ignite change lies within all of us. Here are a few ways you can stand against human trafficking.

Educate Yourself:

Read credible articles and online resources to understand what human trafficking is, its forms, and its signs.

Raise Awareness:

Organize or attend community events, and use your social media platforms to share information and stories.

Support and Volunteer:

Support NGOs and other organizations working against human trafficking by offering your skills and time.

Report Suspicious Activities:

If you see something suspicious, report it to law enforcement. In the US, the National Human Trafficking Hotline is 1-888-373-7888. Different countries have helplines.

Practice Safe Internet Use:

Educate children and adolescents about the dangers of online predators. 

Consume Responsibly:

Understand the origins of the products you buy. Products made with forced labor can contribute to trafficking networks. Support bands that are transparent about their supply chains and have certifications indicating fair labor practices.


Financially support organizations working to combat trafficking. Even small donations can help.


Help Us Provide Hope 

Human trafficking is an overwhelming issue. Together, we can make a difference. Your contributions help our committed staff and volunteers work 365 days a year to fight human trafficking and support survivors. Every donation can change the life of someone victimized by human trafficking. No matter the size, every effort can deliver help and hope to the most vulnerable. 

The generosity of our supporters has helped us provide a safe life for trafficking survivors, including shelter, food, and medical care for those in need. Together, we can change and save lives!