Labor trafficking or forced labor can take many forms, which include bonded labor or debt bondage, where a child incurs a debt he or she is never able to pay off, or involuntary domestic servitude, where a child is forced to work in someone’s home for long hours with little or no pay. Although children may legally engage in certain forms of work, there are legal prohibitions and widespread condemnation against forms of slavery or slavery-like practices, and yet these practices continue to exist as manifestations of human trafficking. A child can be a victim of labor trafficking, regardless of the location of the nonconsensual exploitation. Some indicators of possible forced labor of a child include situations in which the child appears to be in the custody of a nonfamily member who requires the child to perform work that financially benefits someone outside the child’s family and does not offer the child the option of leaving.
In the United States, labor trafficking often occurs in the context of domestic service, agricultural work, peddling, and hospitality industries (e.g., restaurants and hotels). Traffickers manipulate victims into working long hours in substandard conditions for little or no wages. Peddling is a prevalent yet lesser known form of child labor, where children sell cheap goods, such as candy, magazines, or other trinkets, often going door to door or standing on street corners or in parks, regardless of weather conditions and without access to food, water, or facilities.
Like victims of sex trafficking, labor trafficking victims are kept in bondage through a combination of fear, intimidation, abuse, and psychological controls.
It is important to remember that child victims of labor trafficking also may be sexually abused or simultaneously victims of sex trafficking.