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Labor Exploitation vs. Labor Trafficking

By Ciera Harrison, Human Trafficking Outreach Specialist

Labor exploitation and labor trafficking are two distinct issues. Understanding the difference between them and how to recognize each situation is important to preventing and solving both.

Labor Exploitation

Labor exploitation is a broad term that is used to explain a variety of unfair forms of work where an employer benefits from unethical or illegal treatment of their employees. This includes unfair wages, long working hours, harmful or dangerous working conditions, violations of workers’ rights and more. Labor exploitation can involve many forms of unfair treatment, but that does not always mean that there is trafficking involved.

Labor Trafficking

Labor trafficking is an extreme form of exploitation that involves the use of force, fraud and/or coercion. Force and coercion can include receiving threats of harm from an employer or being physically harmed by an employer. Fraud occurs when an employee is promised a fair payment in exchange for labor, but receives little or no salary. In order for a situation to be considered trafficking, there must always be some type of force, coercion and/or fraud involved.

Similarities and Differences

Both labor exploitation and labor trafficking involve unjust and harmful situations for employees that results in unfair benefits for employers. However, the difference between exploitation and trafficking lies in the fact that trafficking is a result of force, fraud and/or coercion. In contrast, victims of labor exploitation are not threatened or physically harmed by their employer.

Want to learn more?

Family Service of the Piedmont offers additional resources about labor exploitation and labor trafficking. Email communityoutreach@fspcares.org.

If you or someone you know is being trafficked, call our 24-hour crisis line at 336-273-7273.