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Why is Human Trafficking Happening?

Children working forced labor on a farm in India

You have likely seen signs in public places or commercials on television that seek to spread of human trafficking. Whether you have given these postings much of your attention or not, you may have wondered, “Why does human trafficking happen?” You might have also wondered if human trafficking is as common as these signs and postings make it seem. The answer is that it is sadly more common that you might realize, and there are various reasons why.

To understand why human trafficking is a problem, it is important to nail down the reality of what human trafficking actually is. And there are no two ways about it—human trafficking is modern slavery. While this might be an alarming statement to some who are less familiar with the subject, this is the truth, and we have to speak honestly about the facts.

You might think that something as evil as slavery would be stopped and that agencies all over the world would be shutting down these sorts of criminal enterprises on a daily basis, making it priority number one. While there are, in fact, organizations and agencies doing everything in their power to prevent human trafficking, the question remains: and yet you continue to ask, “Why does human trafficking STILL happen?”

While the methods of abuse and forced labor might not be the same as depictions of traditional slavery, human traffickers have adapted predatorial tactics to coerce and take advantage of individuals, often before they realize that they are being taken advantage of. This is how many traffickers get their victims. These practices are sneaky, seductive, and overpowering.

There is not one single reason as to why human trafficking happens. Rather, there are manyfactors that play a role. However, in order to break down a more common understanding of why human trafficking is still happening, continue reading.


One of the biggest reasons that can be attributed to why human trafficking is happening is the problem of poverty. And when most people think of poverty, they naturally think of a lack of money or housing. While this is accurate, it is not the complete picture. For instance, an impoverished person also has limited access to other basic needs, such as clean water or medical supplies, which leads not only to their poor health but to their inability to nail down employment or find means of education.

This creates a cycle of life where individuals living in poverty feel that they have no or support to help  lift them from their situation. Traffickers take advantage of this and make promises or offers of assistance, either in the form of housing or financial gain. Without other avenues of support, these promises can feel like a way out and can be very tempting. In these instances, a victim might go along with a predator willingly, not aware of the dangers behind these promises. 


The reasons why human trafficking still exists are not limited to unfortunate living circumstances of the victims. Sadly, there is a demand for forced labor, whether in the form of manual labor or illicit sex, that is established and made possible by criminals all over the world. These are the kinds of people who exploit impoverished or unfortunate groups of people for payment from others who are willing to participate. 

The economic scenario of “supply and demand” feels like a harsh way to discuss the horrors of why human trafficking is a problem, but this is a terrible reality that predators are willing to exploit. There will always be a demand for cheap labor and illicit (or underage) sexual activity. Similarly, there are predators who are willing to seduce or coerce individuals into a position of being this commodity.  

Lack of Awareness

Forced work in a garment factory

Modern slavery is a reality, and another reason that it can exist is because not enough people are aware of it. This is not to imply that human trafficking still happens because people aren’t paying enough attention, simply that not enough people are aware of the true dangers and harsh reality of this enterprise. 

Specifically, an individual might be witness to a human trafficking situation (perhaps at a hotel, for example) and not even be aware of what they are witnessing. This is not the witness’s fault, but there is still much needed work in terms of spreading awareness and teaching individuals how to spot the danger signs of human trafficking. 

And these danger signs don’t necessarily have to come after a victim is already entrenched in a human trafficking situation. There are signs that a person could be in danger of becoming a victim as well. It comes down to individuals keeping their eyes open and helping spread awareness that human trafficking is still happening. 

Join the Fight

The fight to end human trafficking once and for all requires many people, from a variety of backgrounds and experience levels, to do their part. Law enforcement is working tirelessly to track down and victims, and organizations are working to provide them information, while legal groups are constantly battling for human rights and seeking to better inform people of their own rights…but all these organizations and agencies need assistance, as it costs money to keep the fight going.
Donate today, and join the fight to put an end to human trafficking, and help make slavery a thing of the past.



This “Eyes on Trafficking” story is reprinted from its original location.


PBJ Learning is a leading provider of online human trafficking training, focusing on awareness and prevention education. Their interactive Human Trafficking Essentials is being used worldwide to educate professionals and individuals how to recognize human trafficking and how to respond to a potential victim. Their online human trafficking course is available for use on any web browser (even your mobile phone) at any time.

More stories like this can be found in your PBJ Learning Knowledge Vault.