This article evaluates four popular claims regarding human trafficking’s international magnitude, trends, and seriousness relative to other illicit global activities. The four central claims frequently made regarding human trafficking are:
- the number of trafficking victims worldwide is huge;
- the magnitude of trafficking is steadily growing worldwide;
- human trafficking is the second or third largest organized criminal enterprise in the world, after illegal drug and weapons trading;
- and sex trafficking is more prevalent and/or more serious than labour trafficking.
This paper argues that these claims are neither evidence-based nor verifiable and calls for carefully conducted micro level research on trafficking, which is better suited to formulating contextually appropriate policy and enforcement responses than macro level research. Only a few researchers have conducted such carefully designed empirical studies in this field. The present article therefore previews these studies and presents some additional examples of research that pushes our understanding of human trafficking in new directions.
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