Economic Migration Gone Wrong: Trafficking in Persons Through the Lens of Gender, Labor and Globalization

41 Pages Posted: 3 Aug 2014

See all articles by Dana Raigrodski

Dana Raigrodski

University of Washington - School of Law

Date Written: July 29, 2014


Millions of people are trafficked all over the world and enslaved in forced labor in a broad range of industries. Yet, the global community’s efforts to mitigate trafficking have fallen short. This Article argues that the lack of success in fighting human trafficking is to a large extent the result of framing the existing discourse of human trafficking as a matter of criminal law and human rights of women and children, rather than addressing the economic and global market conditions within which human trafficking thrives. Human trafficking is a multi-dimensional issue exacerbated by poverty and disparities in economic opportunities vis-a-vis unmet labor demands and strict migration laws in wealthier countries. It thrives on the vulnerability of certain individuals and populations to exploitation, and particularly those who may desire to migrate in hope of better economic opportunities. Human trafficking is also very much a manifestation of the feminization of both poverty and migration. The dominant gendered narrative, however, continues to marginalize both the impact on and the role of women, children and migrant workers in the global economy, and ignores the complex structural, social and economic aspects of women’s labor migration.

The Article specifically highlights vulnerabilities to trafficking and exploitation brought upon by globalization, the feminization of labor migration, and the links between irregular migration and human trafficking. Migrant workers, particularly migrant women, are playing an increasingly critical role in sustaining the global economy. Poor women (of color) in developing countries comprise most of those emigrating for survival, and relatedly, the overwhelming majority among those who are exploited in the process and subject to trafficking. Nonetheless, the international community has been reluctant to fully investigate and act upon the linkage between trafficking and migrant labor. Even more importantly, the current discourse on trafficking fails to admit that human trafficking is the "underside of globalization." There is no commitment to reframe trafficking as a global migratory response to a global market that seeks out cheap, unregulated, and exploitable labor and the goods and services that such labor can produce. Instead, this Article argues, we need to develop an economic analysis of human trafficking–one which primarily looks at globalization, trade liberalization and labor migration as the core areas that need to be explored to advance the prevention of human trafficking.

Keywords: human trafficking, poverty, exploitation, forced labor, globalization, economic migration, migrant labor

Suggested Citation

Raigrodski, Dana, Economic Migration Gone Wrong: Trafficking in Persons Through the Lens of Gender, Labor and Globalization (July 29, 2014). Indiana International & Comparative Law Review, Vol. 25, Forthcoming, University of Washington School of Law Research Paper No. 2014-24, Available at SSRN:

Dana Raigrodski (Contact Author)

University of Washington - School of Law ( email )

Seattle, WA 98195
United States
206-616-5321 (Phone)


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