New Estimates of Human Trafficking in the World: Shocking but Not Surprising

April 6, 2023

The estimated number of people in situations of trafficking rose by 12 percent between 2016 and 2021, the latest international consensus study found. Today, some 27.6 million people around the globe are living without the freedom to choose how they live and work, according to the International Labor Organization (ILO), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and Walk Free.

Though the sheer volume of exploitation may seem shocking, it should not surprise anyone. The growth in trafficking is possible because simply — and sadly — the underlying conditions that make people vulnerable to sex and labor trafficking have not been addressed. Poverty, environmental destruction, structural racism and discrimination, and gender and economic inequity persist as underlying drivers of human trafficking around the globe.

In the midst of the pandemic, especially, Polaris found that vulnerabilities among some populations had gotten worse. Some people saw their employment opportunities vanish. Many were willing to take any type of job, in any condition, rather than leave their households without an income. As the ILO/IOM/Walk Free report indicates, migrant workers, women, and children are especially vulnerable to falling prey to traffickers. The same thing happens with other global events, as armed conflicts, natural disasters, and social exclusion exacerbate vulnerabilities for people already experiencing difficulties. As a result, new migrants, women, and children will remain at a disproportionate disadvantage.

Read the full story on Polaris.