Child Labor Trafficking

Child labor trafficking is using force, fraud, or coercion to compel a child under 18 to provide involuntary labor or services. Child labor trafficking most often occurs in agricultural settings, factories, domestic workplaces, health and beauty services, restaurants, and small businesses, and is more common in informal settings or situations where employers cannot be easily monitored.6

Common scenarios for labor trafficking include traveling sales crews and peddling operations. In traveling sales crews, young people are recruited to move from city to city selling cheap goods, such as candy, magazines, or other trinkets for little or no pay.7 In peddling operations, they are required to solicit “charitable” donations on the street or in shopping centers.8 Another common form of forced labor involves coerced drug dealing; of 641 homeless youth interviewed for a large 2016 study, 7% said they had been forced to sell drugs, often for gangs. These reports constituted 81% of all instances of forced labor that youth in the study said they experienced.9

Labor trafficking is not always readily apparent. One indicator is when a child appears to be in the custody of a nonfamily member and is forced to perform work for that person’s financial benefit, or for the benefit of third parties whom the child may not even know. As in sex trafficking, labor traffickers keep victims under their control through fear, intimidation, and abuse.10 It is important to remember that child victims of labor trafficking also may be sexually abused or experiencing sex trafficking at the same time.


  1. Development Services Group, Inc. (2016). Child labor trafficking. Literature review. U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. https://www.ojjdp.gov/mpg/litreviews/child-labor-trafficking.pdf
  2. Development Services Group, Inc. (2016). Child labor trafficking. Literature review. U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. https://www.ojjdp.gov/mpg/litreviews/child-labor-trafficking.pdf
  3. Polaris Project. (2017). The typology of modern slavery: Defining sex and labor trafficking in the United States. Polaris Project. https://polarisproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Polaris-Typology-of-Modern-Slavery-1.pdf
  4. Murphy, L. (2016). Labor and sex trafficking among homeless youth: A ten-city study. Loyola University. https://www.covenanthouse.org/sites/default/files/inline-files/Loyola%20Multi-City%20Executive%20Summary%20FINAL.pdf
  5. Development Services Group, Inc. (2016). Child labor trafficking: Literature review. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. https://www.ojjdp.gov/mpg/litreviews/child-labor-trafficking.pdf