The Basics

The Basics


When people think about slavery, they usually think of the traditional chattel slavery that was seen in America’s past. That form does still exist in certain countries, but slavery has evolved, and now most often occurs in these forms:

  • BONDED LABOR: People become bonded laborers by taking or being tricked into taking a loan for as little as the cost of medicine for a sick child. To repay the debt, many are forced to work long hours, often all year long. They receive basic food and shelter as “payment” for their work, but many may never pay off the loan, which can be passed down for generations.
  • FORCED LABOR: People are illegally recruited by individuals, governments or political parties and forced to work, usually under the threat of violence or other penalties.
  • TRAFFICKING: The transport and/or trade of women, children and men from one area to another for the purpose of forcing them into conditions of slavery. Human trafficking ranks as the second largest criminal industry globally, second only to drug smuggling, and equal with illegal weapons transactions.


  • there are more slaves now than ever before in human history – approximately 27 million around the world
  • the cost of a slave has decreased from $40,000 in 1850, to $90 in 2008
  • it would cost $40 per family to buy all bonded laborers in the world – Americans spend this much on chocolate each Valentine’s Day
  • 17,500 slaves are brought into the United States every year
  • slave labor is used to produce much of the goods that we buy, and it is currently very difficult to determine if that is the case
  • in 2003, The New York Times labeled Chicagoland as a national hub for trafficking – most victims are from Latin America and Asia
  • sexual exploitation of minors is lawfully considered human trafficking approximately 325,000 children in the United States are subjected to sexual exploitation every year
  • the average age of entry into the commercial sex industry within the United States is 11-12 years old

Data and statistics on human trafficking are very limited, because the crime is largely invisible – most of these values likely underestimate actual figures. While the issue of modern slavery is global in scale, many experts believe that it can be brought to an end in 25 years – if we are able to sustain our attention on the issue.

sources:, reuters,,