Human Trafficking and Exploitation: A Global Health Concern

  • Citation: Zimmerman, Cathy, and Ligia Kiss. “Human Trafficking and Exploitation: A Global Health Concern.” PLOS Medicine 14, no. 11 (2017).
    • Topics:
    • Human Rights
    • Movements for Inclusion
    • Keywords:
    • migration
    • social mobility
    • human trafficking
    • forced marriage
    • modern slavery

Labor migration is an economic and social mobility strategy that benefits millions of people around the world, yet human trafficking and the exploitation of low-wage workers is pervasive. The negative health consequences of human trafficking—and labor exploitation more generally—are sufficiently prevalent and damaging that they comprise a public health problem of global magnitude. Human trafficking and labor exploitation are substantial health determinants that need to be treated as preventable, drawing on public health intervention approaches that target the underlying drivers of exploitation before the harm occurs. Exploitative practices are commonly sustained by business models that rely on disposable labor, labyrinthine supply chains, and usurious labor intermediaries alongside weakening labor governance and protections, and underpinned by deepening social and economic divisions. Initiatives to address human trafficking require targeted actions to prevent the drivers of exploitation across each stage of the labor migration cycle to stop the types of harm that can lead to generational cycles of disability and disenfranchisement.