Labor Trafficking

What is Labor Trafficking?

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.”

There are three types of labor trafficking:

  1. Bonded Labor
    Bonded labor is the result of labor being demanded as repayment for loans or services when the terms of these loans or services have not been clearly defined, OR when the value of the labor is not reasonably applied to the amount owed. Bonded labor happens when labor worth more than the initial value of the loan or service provided is demanded.
  2. Forced Labor
    Forced labor occurs when victims are forced to work against their will. Victims are denied freedom and ownership is exerted over them. This forced servitude is enforced by threat of violence or other types of punishment. Forced labor is present in many ways, including:
    • Domestic servitude
    • Agricultural labor
    • Sweatshop factory labor
    • Janitorial, food service, and other service industry labor
    • Begging
  3. Child Labor
    Child labor is work that may be hazardous to a child’s health, or his/her development physically, mentally, spiritually, morally, or socially, or that could interfere with his/her education. Child labor is present in many ways, including:
    • Debt bondage
    • Forced recruitment for armed conflict
    • Prostitution
    • Pornography
    • The illegal drug trade
    • The illegal arms trade
    • Other illicit activities around the world.

(Information gathered from the Department of Health & Human Services’ “Labor Trafficking Fact Sheet.”)


Forced Labor in the United States

Forced Labor is far more common in the United States than many Americans know. Often, this involves importing workers from other countries, and then subjecting them to labor for little or no pay, using the threat of injury or other punishments. People are trafficked to and within the United States to forced labor in many industries, especially the agricultural and manufacturing industries. Victims of forced labor in the US are often subjected to long workdays with little or no time for breaks.

In the US, forced labor is common in the following industries:

  • Agriculture & Farms
  • Domestic Work
  • Hostess & Strip Clubs
  • Restaurants & Food Service
  • Factories
  • Peddling & Begging Rings
  • Hospitality Industry


Child Labor in the United States

In the United States, child labor is very common in agricultural work, but also in other industries.

Facts about Child Labor in the US

  • An average of 113 youth under age 20 die annually from farm-related injuries. 16-19 year olds suffer the highest percentage of deaths: 34%.
  • An estimated 3,400 children and adolescents were injured performing farm work in 2009
  • In 2009, 359 workers under age 24 died from work-related injuries. 27 of these were under 8 years old.
  • In 2007, workers under age 24 were two times more likely to need emergency-room care for occupational injuries than were workers over age 25.