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Push And Pull Factors That Perpetuate Human Trafficking

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There are myriad circumstances and actors at play in perpetuating the heinous commodification of human beings through human trafficking. Despite the grimness of that reality, hopefully in understanding the diversity of those circumstances, it will be possible to create more effective, adaptive and tailored responses to curtail its prevalence. Human trafficking and smuggling often follow an already existing flow of human movement, so it is critical to address the factors that draw people away from some areas and toward others. A border need not be crossed to qualify as trafficking, but when analyzing the issue on a global scale that is a very common trait . Displacement, through trafficking or otherwise, is indicative of the conditions that need to be addressed when creating solutions to trafficking and can be examined through push and pull factors.

Push factors are those which drive people away from a source country. These factors tend to be more diverse than the pull factors simply because of the vastly different cultural, socio-political, and economic circumstances in origin countries that might make someone a victim of trafficking. There are some commonalities which I will try to highlight through case examples. Poverty is a factor that quite consistently plays a role in the victimization of a person into trafficking . Traffickers can more easily exploit the desperation of someone who has no means of support or is struggling to make a living. Consider just a few cases that are logged in the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) database. Three of the six cases from Switzerland explicitly state that the traffickers recruited victims based on their financial circumstances, and “deliberately chose women from poor and disadvantaged backgrounds because of their greater vulnerability and their (perceived) inability to resist and refuse the demands” of the traffickers . People without resources or without documentation can more easily be exploited because they have limited recourse if they are trafficked. India has numerous cases filed in the UNODC database, and the victims are often from poverty-stricken circumstances with limited options for upward mobility . In some cases, girls were bought from their impoverished parents or manipulated and sold into sex slavery, and in other cases, desperately poor young men were pushed to dangerous labor due to their lack of options, and then physically enslaved into forced labor through debt bondage. This is also characteristic of trafficking outside of these two regional examples.

Lack of education is another broad push factor that contributes to trafficking. Those in poverty are less likely to have access to an education, which might otherwise provide greater employment opportunity thus negating a need for desperate action. Education might also prepare someone to better recognize the ploys of a trafficker. Whether for forced labor or trafficked sexual exploitation, many of these cases indicate a trend of targeting the most economically marginalized.

Political instability, often linked to violent regional conflict and outright war, also creates conditions that push movement, both voluntary and involuntary. People fleeing such instability often seek the services of a smuggler to covertly get them across international boundaries. Unfortunately, a voluntary relationship with a smuggler often turns into an involuntary case of exploitative trafficking. Inconsistent oversight and corruption in positions of power during periods of political upheaval lend themselves to the proliferation of trafficking.

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Pull factors are those that draw people toward a transit or destination country. They are largely connected to globalized free trade market economies and the demand for low-wage workers. This is distorted into a glamourous image of prosperity abroad that can be alluring to those wishing for life beyond the previously mentioned push factors. An existing community of people from the same ethnic or national background often draws people to certain areas and creates social networks that foster smuggling and trafficking. The connections between individuals can yield valuable information to traffickers and this can be used to their gain.

Globalization has exacerbated the push and pull factors, thus contributing to the growth of trafficking overall. It is simultaneously a push and a pull factor because it pushes people from rural areas and pulls them toward industrialized urban centers. It also involves movement of goods and people in general under the tenets of a free market and lessened State intervention therein . When information and humans can move so easily due to technology and improved international transport services, the job of a trafficker can be made easier, especially when paired with increased privatization of industry since the 1980s under Reagan in the US and Thatcher in the UK. Outside of the impact on labor markets, consider the case of sex trafficking. Child pornography as well as the sale and purchase of people as domestic servants or ‘mail-order brides’ is much more prolific due to the internet5. A global marketplace makes these things readily accessible and neoliberal policy minimizes regulation that might impede such exploitation. Global business influences considerable political and economic clout1. This power also contributes to the low number of prosecutions and allows for the continuation of trafficking.

It has been posited by some that market forces regulate themselves and also allow enough oversight of human rights without necessitating transnational or State intervention. Time and time again this has proven to be false, as corporations are amongst the most common labor exploiters and human rights violators. Scholars have noted that “trafficking follows the basic tenets of the marketplace”1. Demand for low-cost products drives producers to cut corners, often cutting the corner that would properly compensate and provide safe conditions for laborers. The $13 billion shrimp industry is an excellent example of this .

Sex trafficking is also affected by marketplace rules and an influx of supply through trafficking begets a higher demand from situational sex buyers. A free trade market economy on the global scale has been at the root of trafficking expansion and innumerable human rights violations. It provides no financial motivation for maintaining above-board business practice and actually financially rewards those who profit at the expense of others. The risk is much lower than the potential recompense.

Both the push and the pull factors are of such a massive scope that it is difficult to imagine the ability to change them. The scale of the issues, the lack of a cohesive and substantive transnational response, corruption, and the omnipresent ideals of globalized neoliberalism, all unfortunately allow for the perpetuation of human trafficking and smuggling. In fighting trafficking, a cookie cutter response will not be effective, so it is essential to consider the unique attributes of different regional situations. It is necessary to create a holistic response rather than only addressing symptomatic issues.

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Push And Pull Factors That Perpetuate Human Trafficking. (2022, Jun 09). Edubirdie. Retrieved September 25, 2023, from
“Push And Pull Factors That Perpetuate Human Trafficking.” Edubirdie, 09 Jun. 2022,
Push And Pull Factors That Perpetuate Human Trafficking. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 25 Sept. 2023].
Push And Pull Factors That Perpetuate Human Trafficking [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Jun 09 [cited 2023 Sept 25]. Available from:
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