Top 5 Industries using Forced Labor


Imagine pulling up to your job, thinking it will be another normal day at work. A stack of assignments is on your desk, so you prepare yourself for a long day. Then, all of a sudden, your boss stops by your cubicle and mentions that you will no longer receive earnings for your work.

What would you do? You might decide to quit. After all, what good is a job if you aren’t getting paid?

But what if your boss replied, “You can’t quit” What if your boss said that the company owns you and has authority over whether you get to leave?

This doesn’t happen in real life, right? Wrong. Scenarios like this are happening in multiple industries all across the U.S. and globally. It’s called labor trafficking. It affects men, women and children everywhere. Those who are most vulnerable are also those most susceptible to being targeted for trafficking. Anyone who is targeted can become entangled in a cycle that forces them to do work without appropriate compensation. Their days are long, unprotected by unions, and they are often abused by their perpetrators.

Approximately 24 million people trafficked for labor are in bondage, working in an industry in which they receive little to no pay. In 2016, the International Labour Organization (ILO) estimated that 40.3 million people are enslaved across the world. Accordingly, roughly more than half of all people stuck in modern-day slavery are victims of labor trafficking. Many cases of forced labor exist within the agricultural industry, domestic work, factories, clubs, and hospitality arenas. Let’s take a look at these industries:


Agricultural Industry

The agricultural industry is one of the most troubling industries where forced labor is rampant. Some may think undocumented immigrants are the only ones targeted, but even legal residents and U.S. citizens can fall victim. When people desperately need work, it isn’t uncommon for them to take any open opportunities coming their way. Perpetrators of this industry take great advantage of that and start abusing people as young as 5-years-old.

What makes this industry so viable is the growth it feeds to the economy. No matter where a person is in the world, everyone needs to eat, and there needs to be someone willing to harvest the food. Victims of this industry harvest crops, raise and feed animals, and pack plants, orchards and nurseries. They’re willing to do the work no one else will and, because of that, companies can more easily take advantage of them.

Domestic Work

Another industry involved in labor trafficking is domestic work. Organizations like, International Justice Mission (IJM) and A21, have seen cases like this around the world, ranging from the U.S. to South Asia. Typically, victims are abused in the homes of family members or someone they considered a close friend, who then force them to perform numerous household jobs like cleaning, cooking, child and elderly-care, gardening, or other forms of labor where they work anywhere from 10 to 16 hours per day with little to no pay.


Issues of forced labor also affect the manufacturing, or garment business. Laborers can work 10 to 12 hours per day, seven days a week, with little to no break. Perpetrators typically misrepresent the business, giving workers false information regarding working conditions, benefits, and wages. If workers try to leave, they may be threatened with deportation, violence, or harm to their families. The manufacturing industry is also driven by competitive workers because of low-profit margins. At low costs, employers are able to demand cheap labor to work, which gives coercion an open door.   


Nightclubs & Bars

In a time when society sexualizes and gives glamour to sex more than ever, it isn’t uncommon to see the rise of individuals being trafficked to perform in bars and strip clubs. On the outside, it may appear harmless and like a small fraction of pleasure, but the reality is that many hostesses and dancers of this business are coerced to fulfill a job that dehumanizes and exploits their personal being. According to Polaris, although many victims are usually adult women, some places force minors into the industry as well.


Working in casinos or hotels may not be as glamorous or exciting as it seems. The hospitality industry is yet another environment where individuals are exploited. Hard work and long hours aren’t rewarded with reciprocal pay. This industry has its peaks of high demand for workers during holiday seasons. Many businesses look for people willing to work these terms, which end up turning into temporary seasonal tourism. With a great need for cheap labor, hospitality venues perpetuate the business by forcing employees to complete extreme tasks under little protection and with little compensation.  

Even amidst the horrific crimes of trafficking, there is still some good to be found within industrial environments. You can find hope in the work and effort of other industries that fight to see an end to modern-day slavery. It is important for everyone in all industries to recognize modern-day slavery is not simply a national issue, but rather an international issue. It exists within multiple nations everyday, in dozens of industries. Real justice is fighting for those who can’t fight for themselves, and the companies within these industries who see this injustice must fight. We have to be willing to protect those who are exploited through labor trafficking.


It is not too late to be a part of the impact!

Right now, thousands of people around the world are taking on the creative challenge of wearing a dress or tie in the month of December. The reason? To bring freedom to the 40+ million around the world still trapped in slavery. Your donation or participation in Dressember 2018 is part of a movement to end human trafficking for good.

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About the Author

Danyella Wilder.png

Danyella Wilder is a college senior at California Baptist University studying Journalism and New Media with two minors in Public Relations and Global Justice. She's thrilled to work alongside Dressember in their advocacy to spread awareness about modern-day slavery. Danyella is also an admirer of travel, an online-shopping enthusiast, and she loves going to the beach just as long as she has a great book in hand.