Forced Labor & Human Trafficking

Today, tens of millions of people throughout the world are exploited through force, fraud or coercion. Known by many names – including human trafficking and modern slavery – the exploitation of people remains one of the most pervasive human rights abuses on the planet. It is an affront to human dignity and a systemic barrier for so many to a life of independence and opportunity.

Humanity United has focused on this issue for the past decade, supporting a variety of approaches and partners dedicated to addressing various forms of human exploitation, including forced labor, child labor, debt bondage, and human trafficking. We’ve worked to raise awareness and understanding of the issue and build the field of organizations and donors dedicated to ending all forms of human exploitation. We’ve advocated for policies to respond to this issue and to address its root causes, and we’ve worked across sectors to engage markets and innovators to be part of the solution.

Our work today is focused on two of the most systemic problems that contribute to human exploitation: forced labor in corporate supply chains, and the vulnerability to human trafficking that results from labor migration.

Supply Chains & Forced Labor

In today’s economy, the goods we consume are often produced far from where they are purchased, successively changing hands along complex and opaque corporate supply chains. Unfortunately, there are well-documented cases of forced labor throughout the supply chains of almost every corporate sector—from agriculture to construction, and from apparel to electronics.

The International Labour Organization estimates that there are approximately 24.9 million victims of forced labor in the world, generating illegal profits of $150 billion per year. As more reports emerge of labor abuses in the supply chains of major brands, companies are under mounting pressure from consumers, investors, media, and governments to maintain responsible and transparent supply chains.

HU first approached the problem with a focus on specific commodities, like palm oil and seafood, where forced labor is particularly prevalent. We supported specific programs, documentation, advocacy, awareness raising and tool development in an attempt to not only address the problem but also learn more about the systems that produce forced labor in supply chains. This work continues today in Thailand’s seafood industry, where vulnerable workers suffer from severe labor exploitation to meet the global demand for cheap seafood. In this context, we are supporting efforts to incentivize government regulatory action, strengthen civil society, and catalyze market-based solutions while increasing corporate accountability for abuses.

While we will continue to support documentation and awareness about the issue of forced labor, we also know that global businesses have both a responsibility as well as an opportunity to meaningfully contribute to the eradication of forced labor within their supply chains. We are committed to working with corporations to discover and implement new policies and tools that can mitigate their risk of enabling forced labor. We want to ensure that people around the world work under safe, fair and legal conditions.

Human Trafficking & Labor Migration

According to the ILO, migrant workers account for 150 million of the world’s approximately 244 million international migrants. Migrant workers contribute to the development and economies of the countries where they live and work, and strengthen the economies of their countries of origin through remittances they send home. Yet migrant workers often fall outside of the protection of their host and home countries, making them vulnerable to exploitation, abuse and human trafficking.

Most migrant workers, whether migrating within their own country or to another country, rely on unscrupulous recruiters to connect them to employment. These agencies and individuals typically charge high fees and may misrepresent job conditions in order to recruit workers, leaving them indebted and vulnerable.

One of the largest migration corridors in the world exists between countries in South Asia and the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, where rapid economic growth and a shortage of local labor fuel massive recruitment of migrant workers. Within this corridor, Humanity United has focused on Nepal, a source country that sends more than 2,000 migrant workers overseas per day, and Qatar, a wealthy destination country where migrant workers make up more than 90% of the local workforce. We also work to protect families who migrate internally to work in brick kilns across Nepal.

To address these challenges, we support efforts with workers, businesses and governments to combat forced labor and human trafficking in the migration cycle:

  • With workers, we seek to help them achieve their rights at work and at home by reducing their vulnerability to abuse in the workplace, reducing or eliminating recruitment fees, and strengthening policies to better protect them.
  • With businesses, we develop and pilot new technologies and approaches to the unique challenges of employing a migrant workforce. We also support new models and market alternatives to existing labor recruitment systems.
  • With governments, we partner with policy makers and implementers to develop innovative new solutions to protect workers from trafficking, exploitation and abuse.