The business of human trafficking

  • Human trafficking is the 2nd largest criminal trade in the world after arms.
  • Human trafficking is the fastest-growing illicit trade in the world.
  • Human trafficking generates over $150 billion in profits every year.
  • 40.3 million people are living as slaves worldwide, 5 times the population of Switzerland.
  • Globally, the average cost of a “slave” – a trafficked human being – is $90.
  • The U.S. accounts for almost 52% of global human trafficking with the sex trafficking of minors accounting for the largest percentage. 
  • Traffickers make over $9.5 billion annually in the U.S. alone.

Children are the prime victims

  • The prime victims of human trafficking are less than 18 years old.
  • There are 5.4 victims of human trafficking for every 1,000 people in the world.
  • 1 in 4 victims of human trafficking are children.
  • Approximately 130 people are trafficked worldwide every hour. Most of these are children.
  • Over one million children are trafficked for the sex trade every year.
  • Approximately 30 million children have lost their childhood to human trafficking in the past 30 years.
  • Some children forced into human trafficking are as young as 4 years old.
  • 4 million people are living in forced marriages. This is slavery.
  • One third of the 15 million victims of forced marriage are under the age of 18. Nearly half of these are younger than 15.
  • 152 million children were victims of child labor in 2016, which amounts to nearly one in every 10 children worldwide.
  • Sexual exploitation earns 66% of the global profits of human trafficking.
  • The average age of a sex trafficked child is 13-14 years old.
  • A pimp can make up to $150,000-$200,000 per child a year.
  • 1 in 3 children who run away from home are approached by a trafficker within 48 hours of their running away.
  • 76% of transactions for human trafficking with underage girls, start on the internet.

A human rights issue

  • 50% of sexually trafficked and exploited children are male.
  • Male survivors of human trafficking are the silent victims of an already hidden crime.
  • Human trafficking is just one symptom of an enormous refugee crisis – the largest since World War II.
  • There has been a 600% increase in sex trafficking of migrants in Europe over last three years.
  • 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across borders worldwide every year. These figures are the highest ever recorded in history since the slave trade two centuries ago.
  • More than 20,000 minors have disappeared into human trafficking in Europe alone over the last 2 years.
  • At least 10,000 unaccompanied minor refugees have been reported missing after reaching Europe, and many of them are believed to have fallen victim to trafficking.
  • 139 goods from 75 countries are made by forced and child labor.
  • 9 million people are subjected to forced labor every year.
  • Cases of human trafficking caused by climate change in the past 5 years have increased by at least 600%.
  • 75% of victims who were trafficked in the past decade were advertised online.


What about Switzerland?

  • Switzerland is primarily a destination and a transit country for women, children, and transgender people subjected to sex trafficking.
  • Switzerland is primarily a destination and a transit country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor, including forced begging and forced criminal activity.
  • Switzerland is home to between 2,000 and 3,000 victims of human trafficking.
  • The majority of human trafficking victims in Switzerland are women and children forced into prostitution, begging and stealing.
  • Some human trafficking victims in Switzerland are as young as 14 years old. Most of the victims have experienced violence and abuse prior to arriving in Switzerland.
  • Switzerland is a destination for foreign trafficking victims primarily from Central and Eastern Europe.
  • Switzerland noted an increase in the number of women trafficked for sexual exploitation from Eastern Europe, specifically Romania.
  • Traffickers in Switzerland get away on suspended sentences, instead of being sentenced to 20 years in prison, the maximum sentence for trafficking.
  • Of the 22 convictions of human traffickers in Switzerland, only 11 resulted in prison time 2016.
  • Switzerland has cases of domestic servitude especially in the diplomatic community, a hidden crime in a sheltered community.
  • The helpline numbers in Switzerland are +41 800 24 7 365 and 0 800 24 7 365, available 365 days a year – around the clock.
  • The Geneva hotline number is 0800 20 80 20 (open from 14:00-18:00 Monday-Friday).
  • For more information, check the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs website.


Note: Youth Underground is based in Switzerland.

Sources: The UN, the ILO, IOM, UNODC, UNICEF, UNHCR, The U.S. Department of State.