Free Essay Sample: Causes and Consequences of Human Trafficking

Published: 2024-01-23
Free Essay Sample: Causes and Consequences of Human Trafficking
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Economics Law Human trafficking
Pages: 6
Wordcount: 1567 words
14 min read


The Department of Justice defines human 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” (Department of Justice, 2020). It is a huge problem in the modern world. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), more than 20 million people were victims of human trafficking in the world in 2017 (Human Rights First, 2017). The report further states that 64% of the victims are exploited for labor, 19% are sexually exploited, and 17% are in state-imposed forced labor (Human Rights First, 2017). The economic benefits of human trafficking are the major drivers of the vice. It is estimated that human trafficking generates $150 billion annually, making it a lucrative business (Human Rights First, 2017). The economic vulnerability of the victims also exposes them to this complex and heartbreaking vice. Various political and demographic factors also promote human trafficking. Though most human trafficking cases are neither reported nor prosecuted, the vice has far-reaching effects on the victims, their families, and society. This paper seeks to discuss the drivers of human trafficking and its consequences.

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Causes of Human Trafficking

Economic factors, on both the side of traffickers and victims, fuel human trafficking. As mentioned earlier, human trafficking is a multi-billion dollar industry. Thus, the huge profits generated make it a lucrative business for traffickers. There is also a massive demand for cheap labor in different sectors, including the service and agricultural industries, supporting illegal activity. It was also mentioned earlier that the economic vulnerability of victims makes them easy targets for human trafficking. Factors contributing to this vulnerability include poverty, unemployment, displacement, and lack of experience or knowledge. Studies have shown that countries with high levels of poverty serve as the origin and transit routes (Hung, 2020). Often, traffickers promise jobs or a better life to the victims. Owing to their economic situation, most of the victims cannot resist such offers.

Political factors that fuel human trafficking include political instability, armed conflict, militarism, and civil unrest. For instance, research shows that human trafficking in Europe dramatically increased following the collapse of the Soviet Union (Buckley, 2018). The economic stagnation, mass unemployment, and breakdown in social services that followed the collapse provided a conducive environment for human trafficking. The difficult conditions caused by political instability also push people to leave their country, searching for opportunities, and safer political environments. In the process, they might become victims of human trafficking. War leads to displacement of populations, a factor that increases their vulnerability to human trafficking. War also leads to lawlessness, and the weakening of border controls and state institutions, leading to an increase in human trafficking incidences. For example, the armed conflict recently experienced in countries such as Syria and Ukraine exposed thousands of civilians to human trafficking (Aronowitz & Chmaitilly, 2020). Opening up of borders, as a result of globalization and greater cooperation between nations, has also contributed to the high levels of human trafficking in the 21st century. Owing to these factors, people can easily obtain passports, allowing trans-border trafficking.

Corruption is also a significant enabler of human trafficking. It enables traffickers and other organized crime groups to acquire the necessary information and clear the way for their illegal activities. Corruption also allows traffickers to counter threats and manage the risks associated with the practice. To this end, a causal relationship between highly corrupt countries and the high prevalence of human trafficking has been established (Malikhao & Servaes, 2017). Studies have also revealed that it is difficult to prove cases of human trafficking, a factor that further supports the vice (Malikhao & Servaes, 2017).

Under demographic factors, broken families and backward cultural practices contribute to human trafficking. Women and children are devalued in some societies, making them primary targets of human trafficking. Their susceptibility to human trafficking is also increased by cultural attitudes and practices such as lack of birth registration and early marriage (Msuya, 2017). Gender inequality in education also disproportionately exposes women to human trafficking. Research has shown that human trafficking is also closely linked to the sex industry, increasing the vulnerability of women to the trade (Cockbain & Bowers, 2019).

Consequences of Human Trafficking

The effects of human trafficking are felt by the victims, the countries of origin, and the destination countries. The vice exposes the victims to both physical and mental trauma. As mentioned in this discussion, most victims of human trafficking come from difficult situations. As such, their mental well-being is usually poor. The treatment they face after being trafficked exacerbates the situation leading to mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, Stockholm syndrome, and post-traumatic disorder (PTSD). Research has shown that victims of human trafficking are more likely to abuse substances and entertain suicidal thoughts (Altun et al., 2017). They also experience shame and stigmatization, leading to compound types of trauma. Victims of human trafficking are transported and held in dangerous conditions. Sanitation under these conditions is poor, the nutritional needs of the victims are not met, and they often lack access to quality healthcare. Most victims of human trafficking are sold into sex slavery, which exposes them to the risk of sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS (Ahmed, 2017).

The families and communities left behind are adversely affected by human trafficking. It also reduces revenues and causes loss of resources in the countries of origin due to the decline in human capital and the lower participation rate in the labor market. When parents are trafficked, children may lack access to education, hurting their future productivity. The cost of trafficking, which includes the value of resources dedicated to its prevention, apprehension, and prosecution of traffickers, as well as support and treatment of victims, is high in both the origin and destination countries. The profits generated from human trafficking are used to support criminal networks, a factor that affects security (Tripp & McMahon-Howard, 2016). For example, studies have established that most of the human trafficking cases are linked to illegal trade in arms or drugs. The proceeds increase the rates of corruption and undermine the rule of law.


As shown in this paper, human trafficking is a major problem in the modern world. Various political, economic, and social factors have created a conducive environment for the vice to flourish. Political instability, as well as war, cause displacement and lawlessness, leading to a higher prevalence of human trafficking. Corruption has also been identified as a significant driver of the vice. Economically, poverty and unemployment increase the vulnerability of people to human trafficking. The high demand for cheap labor and the huge profits generated from the industry also support the trade. Various cultural practices have also been shown to fuel human trafficking. Other than physical and mental impacts on the victims, this paper has shown that human trafficking also has far-reaching social and economic effects on both the source and destination countries.


Ahmed, A. (2017). Addressing HIV/AIDS at the Intersection of Anti-Trafficking and Health Law and Policy. Revisiting the Law and Governance of Trafficking, Forced Labor and Modern Slavery, 305.

Altun, S., Abas, M., Zimmerman, C., Howard, L. M., & Oram, S. (2017). Mental health and human trafficking: responding to survivors' needs. BJPsych International, 14(1), 21-23.

Aronowitz, A. A., & Chmaitilly, M. (2020). Human Trafficking: Women, Children, and Victim-Offender Overlap. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Criminology and Criminal Justice.

Buckley, M. (2018). The politics of unfree labor in Russia: Human Trafficking and Labour Migration. Cambridge University Press.

Cockbain, E., & Bowers, K. (2019). Human trafficking for sex, labour and domestic servitude: how do key trafficking types compare and what are their predictors? Crime, Law and Social Change, 72(1), 9-34.

Department of Justice. (2020). Human Trafficking. Department of Justice.,%C2%A7%207102(9)).

Human Rights First. (2017, January 7). Human Trafficking by the Numbers. Human Rights First.,in%20state%2Dimposed%20forced%20labor.&text=Of%20the%2016%20million%20trafficking%20victims%20exploited%20for%20labor

Hung, T. T. (2020). Preventing human trafficking in Vietnam through economic empowerment programmes. International journal of criminology and sociology, 9, 1-8.

Malikhao, P., & Servaes, F. (2017). Human trafficking in Thailand: a culture of corruption. Culture and Communication in Thailand, 117-125.

Msuya, N. H. (2017). Tradition and culture in Africa: Practices that facilitate trafficking of women and children. Dignity: A Journal on Sexual Exploitation and Violence, 2(1), 3.

Tripp, T. M., & McMahon-Howard, J. (2016). Perception vs. reality: the relationship between organized crime and human trafficking in metropolitan Atlanta. American Journal of Criminal Justice, 41(4), 732-764.

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