As human trafficking increasingly permeates cultural and political conversations, the ability to identify reputable sourcing is crucial for true understanding and advocacy of the issue.
Various agencies and organizations release human trafficking analyses that drive continued research and, ultimately, improved understanding of the issue and potential solutions. We provide a list of dependable resources below, along with their key take-aways and lessons learned since the 2020 start of the pandemic.
Trafficking in Persons Report
One of the foremost, comprehensive analyzes on human trafficking released by the U.S. Department of State, the annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report provides rankings of nations’ responses to human trafficking, trends revealed by statistics and surveys, cutting-edge research and approaches, and innovative solutions from world experts and surveys. Highlights from the 2021 report include:
- The 2020 COVID-19 impact. Economically and socially disadvantaged people have disproportionately borne the traumas of 2020. Making matter worse, more people have been driven to into these risk groups and subsequently made more vulnerable to sex and labor trafficking situations, which traffickers have been quick to exploit.
- As resources and funding become scarce, services for victims and survivors have sharply declined, including access to safe housing, and have struggled to bounce back.
- Solutions. The anti-trafficking community has already begun adapting to overcome these challenges, such as deploying collaborative research, tech innovations, and survivor-led solutions. They recommend further incorporating anti-trafficking efforts into existing responses in other contexts, such as in humanitarian settings, proactive response and crisis mitigation planning, and the application of equity-based approaches.
- Case studies. The report takes a fascinating dive into topics such as state-sponsored trafficking, the unique complexities of familial trafficking (41% of child cases involve family members), survivor-led solutions, the role of the financial sector, and forced labor in China’s Xinjiang region.
“Though difficult work remains ahead, the past year has already demonstrated stakeholders’ unwavering determination and promising innovations amid exceptional challenges. With continued collaboration, adaptation, and commitment to serving the needs of victims, survivors, and vulnerable populations, anti-trafficking efforts will emerge stronger in the post-pandemic era.”
Human Trafficking Institute
The Human Trafficking Institute releases an annual Federal Human Trafficking Report using data from every active federal criminal and civil human trafficking case over the last year. The 2020 report also includes trends from the past 20 years .
The report provides a useful breakdown of pre-existing vulnerabilities, including specifically for child victims and foreign nationals, as well as the highlights below.
- Children accounted for 53% of identified victims in active criminal human trafficking cases in 2020, while 43% of sex trafficking victims were women and half were girls.
- Since 2000, 30% of all victims identified were recruited online. Of online recruitment in 2020, 59% of the total and 65% of child sex trafficking victims were recruited on Facebook alone.
- Prosecutors filed more sex trafficking prosecutions in 2020 than all forced labor prosecutions filed in two decades, which may be due to the higher benchmark of proof for forced labor cases.
The Polaris Project releases annual statistics of National Human Trafficking Hotline calls, which provides a baseline snapshot of human trafficking types and demographics in the U.S. and by state. While not yet updating 2020 data, they provide a host of resources, such as their recent look at human trafficking during the pandemic .
International Labour Organization
While the International Labour Organization (ILO) does not release the same report each year, their expansive analyses illuminate specific areas of human trafficking from a global perspective. For instance, their recent report “Child Labour: Global Estimates 2020, Trends and the Road Forward,” published in collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Fund, explores child labor trends using up-to-date data and survey-based estimates. They find:
- An estimated 160 million children–63 million girls and 97 million boys–were in child labor globally at the beginning of 2020, accounting for almost 1 in 10 of all children worldwide. Further, 79 million children were in hazardous work that directly endangers their health, safety, and moral development.
- Approximately 72% of all child labor occurs within families, primarily on family farms or microenterprises
- In Europe/North America, 2.3% of children (3.8 million) are in child labor, with increases principally in sub-Saharan Africa.
- Children aged 5-11 in forced labor increased by 16.8 million since 2016.
- They predict 8.9 million more children will be in child labor by the end of 2022 as the result of pandemic-driven poverty increases.
- Progress against child labor has stagnated since 2016. The percentage of children in forced labor has remained largely unchanged, suggesting the global community is falling behind their commitments to end child labor.
- Solutions. Efforts to combat these trends include expanded income support measures for vulnerable families, free and quality schooling up to the minimum age for entering employment, guaranteed birth registration, enforced laws and regulations to protect kids, and addressing gender norms and discrimination.
“Without urgent mitigation measures, the COVID-19 crisis is likely to push millions more children into child labour.”
Stories of Trafficking
While reports and statistics provide a crucial framework, they have significant research gaps and, as the TIP report highlights, survivor perspectives must help drive the movement to end exploitation. To that end, various non-profits elevate these stories, a sampling of which are provided below.
- The Exodus Road’s Operation Unify.
- International Justice Mission’s stories of rescue, such as the recently released “Boy and His Family Find Freedom Amid Pandemic’s Child Labor Spike.”
- World Without Exploitation’s advocacy tools, which strive to provide survivor-informed human trafficking resources and education.
Lastly, check out Villanova University’s Institute to Address Commercial Sexual Exploitation’s Spring 2021 report for state-specific research and recommendations for supporting victims and decreasing sex trafficking .
While the breadth of information and actors in the anti-human trafficking field may appear overwhelming, these basic resources can provide a framework to more quickly assess information and ensure you are an effective part of the solution.
Have questions? Reach out; we’d love to hear from you!
 “2021 Trafficking in Persons Report,” U.S. Department of State, https://www.state.gov/reports/2021-trafficking-in-persons-report/.
 “Federal Human Trafficking Report,” The Human Trafficking Institute, https://www.traffickinginstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/2020-Federal-Human-Trafficking-Report-Low-Res.pdf.
 “Human Trafficking During a Pandemic: What We Can Learn From a Snapshot in Time,” Polaris Project (July 21, 2021, https://polarisproject.org/blog/2021/07/human-trafficking-during-a-pandemic-what-we-can-learn-from-a-snapshot-in-time/.
 “Child Labour: Global Estimates 2020, Trends and the Road Forward,” International Labour Organization, https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—ed_norm/—ipec/documents/publication/wcms_797515.pdf.
 Institute to Address Commercial Sexual Exploitation, “Spring 2021 Reform,” Villanova University, https://cseinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/Spring-2021-Report-FINAL-pages-1.pdf.