Forced Labour and Human Trafficking: Estimating the Profits

21 Pages Posted: 13 May 2011

See all articles by Patrick Belser

Patrick Belser

International Labour Organization (ILO)

Date Written: March 1, 2005


This is an experimental assignment undertaken for the ILO to try to estimate the order of magnitude of the profits from forced labour and human trafficking. The paper’s main finding is that global profits made from forced labourers exploited by private agents or enterprises could reach US$ 44.2 billion every year, of which US$ 31.6 billion from trafficked victims. The largest profits – more than US$ 15 billion - are made from people trafficked and forced to work in industrial countries. These figures show that profits are possibly much larger than has so far been recognized by the estimates of other national or international organizations. They also support the view that trafficking thrives because it is lucrative and that policy measures to combat this scourge must include the confiscation of the financial assets of those involved in trafficking across or within borders. This requires countries to put in place and implement as rapidly as possible serious systems of financial investigation.

Keywords: human trafficking, forced labour, profits, labor exploitation, coercion, sexual exploitation

JEL Classification: H00, J00

Suggested Citation

Belser, Patrick, Forced Labour and Human Trafficking: Estimating the Profits (March 1, 2005). Available at SSRN: or

Patrick Belser (Contact Author)

International Labour Organization (ILO) ( email )

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