Labor Trafficking – Let’s help stop
Labor Trafficking – Get involved,
get educated, Get going! Help stop it.
The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) defines
labor trafficking as: “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.” The Trafficking Victims Prevention Act also recognizes sex trafficking, which is
discussed in a separate fact sheet. A modern-day form of slavery, labor trafficking is a fundamental violation of human rights.
Forms of Labor Trafficking
There are several forms of exploitative practices linked to labor trafficking, including bonded
labor, forced labor and child labor.
• Bonded labor, or debt bondage, is probably the least known form of labor trafficking today, and
yet it is the most widely used method of enslaving people. Victims become bonded laborers when their labor is
demanded as a means of repayment for a loan or service in which its terms and conditions have not been defined or
in which the value of the victims’ services as reasonably assessed is not applied toward the liquidation of the
debt. The value of their work is greater than the original sum of money “borrowed.”
• Forced labor is a situation in which victims are forced to work against their own will, under
the threat of violence or some other form of punishment, their freedom is restricted and a degree of ownership is
exerted. Forms of forced labor can include domestic servitude; agricultural labor; sweatshop factory labor;
janitorial, food service and other service industry labor; and begging.
Child labor is a form of work that is likely to be hazardous to the health and/or physical,
mental, spiritual, moral or social development of children and can interfere with their education. The
International Labor Organization estimates worldwide that there are 246 million exploited children aged
between 5 and 17 involved in debt bondage, forced recruitment for armed conflict (child soldiers),
prostitution, pornography, the illegal drug trade, blood (conflict) diamonds, the illegal arms trade and other illicit activities around the
Identifying Victims of Labor Trafficking
Victims of labor trafficking are not a homogenous group of people. Victims are young children,
teenagers, men and women. Some of them enter the country legally on worker visas for domestic, “entertainment,”
computer and agricultural work, while others enter illegally. Some work in legal occupations such as domestic,
factory or construction work, while others toil in illegal industries such as the drug and arms trade or
panhandling. Although there is no single way to identify victims of labor trafficking, some common patterns
include:class="entry">* Victims of labor trafficking are often kept isolated to prevent them from getting
help. Their activities are restricted and are typically watched, escorted or guarded by associates of traffickers.
Traffickers may “coach” them to answer questions with a cover story about being a student or tourist.
* Victims of labor trafficking may be blackmailed by labour traffickers using the victims’ status
as an undocumented alien or their participation in an “illegal” industry. By threatening to report them to law
enforcement or immigration officials, labor traffickers keep victims compliant.
* People who are trafficked into forced labour often come from unstable and economically
devastated places as labor traffickers frequently identify vulnerable populations characterized by oppression, high
rates of illiteracy, little social mobility and few, if any, economic opportunities.
* Women and children are overwhelmingly trafficked in labor arenas because of their relative lack
of power, social marginalization, and their overall status as compared to men.
Health Impacts of Labor
In addition to the human rights abuses that define their involuntary servitude, victims of labor
trafficking suffer from a variety of physical and mental health problems and issues:
* Various methods of forced labor expose victims of labor trafficking to physical abuse such as
scars, headaches, hearing loss, cardiovascular/respiratory problems, and limb amputation. Victims of labor
trafficking may also develop chronic back, visual and respiratory problems from working in agriculture,
construction or manufacturing under dangerous conditions.
* The psychological effects of torture are helplessness, hopelessness, shame and
humiliation, shock, denial and disbelief, disorientation and confusion, and
anxiety disorders including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), phobias, panic attacks, and
* Many victims also develop Traumatic Bonding or “Stockholm
Syndrome,” which is characterized by cognitive distortions where reciprocal positive feelings develop between
captors and their hostages. This bond is a type of human survival instinct and helps the victim cope with the
* Child victims of labor trafficking are often malnourished to the extent that they may never
reach their full height, they may have poorly formed or rotting teeth, and later they may experience reproductive
Assistance for Victims of Labor
When victims of labor trafficking are identified, the United States. government can help them
stabilize their immigration status, and obtain support and assistance in rebuilding their lives in the United
States through various programs for labor trafficked victims. By certifying victims of labour trafficking, the
United States. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) enables labor trafficking victims who are non-U.S.
citizens to receive federally funded benefits and services to the same extent as a refugee. Victims of labour
trafficking who are United States. citizens do not need to be certified to receive benefits. As United States
citizens, they may already be eligible for many benefits available to labor trafficked victims.
As a result of the certification or eligibility letters issued by HHS, victims of labor
trafficking can access benefits and services including food, health care and employment assistance.
Certified victims of labor trafficking can obtain access to services that provide English language
instruction and skills training for job placement. Since many forced-labour trafficking victims are reluctant to
come forward for fear of being deported, one of HHS’ most important roles is to connect victims with non-profit
organizations prepared to assist them and address their specific needs. These organizations can provide counseling,
guidance, case management and benefit coordination.
If you think you have come in contact with a victim of human
trafficking, labor trafficking, or sex trafficking call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center
at 1-888-373-7888. This l24/7 Labor
trafficking hotline will help you determine if you have encountered victims of human trafficking, will identify
local resources available in your community to help forced-labour trafficking victims, and will help you coordinate
with local social service organizations to help protect and serve Victims of labor trafficking so they can begin
the long process of restoring their lives.
For more information and resources on labour trafficking, child trafficking, sex trafficking, and
human trafficking visit www.acf.hhs.gov/trafficking
FACT SHEET: LABOR TRAFFICKING by Campaign to Rescue and Restore Victims of Human Trafficking: