Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2020


This report was published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) on February 2, 2021. It is the fifth edition of UNODC’s biennial Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, the first edition of which was published in 2012.

The UNODC defines human trafficking as the “recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of people through force, fraud or deception, with the aim of exploiting them for profit.” The report uses data gathered between 2016 and 2018 from 148 countries to assess the extent of trafficking in persons and the various measures adopted to counter such trafficking. It outlines the diverse profiles of victims of trafficking across sex, age, and country of origin, lists the types of exploitation practised and the kinds of offenders involved in trafficking.

The report also highlights the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on human trafficking. Additionally, it suggests developments in policy formation and implementation for effective curbing of global trafficking in persons.

The 176-page report consists of six chapters: Global Overview (Chapter I); Socio-economic factors and risks of Covid-19 recession (Chapter II); Children; Easy to target (Chapter III); Trafficking for forced labour; the economy of coercion (Chapter IV); Traffickers use of the Internet; digital hunting fields (Chapter V), and Regional Overviews (Chapter VI).


  1. In 2018, out of every 10 victims of human trafficking detected worldwide, five were adult women and two were girls. The report further adds that of all the victims globally, 20 per cent were adult men and 34 per cent were children (19 per cent girls and 15 per cent boys).

  2. The report notes that the profile of trafficking victims has changed in the 15 years preceding the survey. The percentage of adult women victims dropped from around 74 per cent in 2004 to 46 per cent in 2018. During the same period there has been a steady rise in the share of victims who were girls (from 10 per cent to 19 per cent), boys (from three per cent to 15 per cent) and adult men (from 13 per cent to 20 per cent).

  3. Globally, victims were trafficked for sexual exploitation (50 per cent), forced labour (38 per cent), to be forced into criminal activities (six per cent), begging (1.5 per cent), and forced marriages (one per cent). Other forms of exploitation included sale of babies and removal of organs.

  4. The trends in the form of exploitation faced by trafficked victims have changed, notes the report. The percentage of victims trafficked for sexual exploitation dropped from 79 per cent in 2006 to 50 per cent in 2018. On the other hand, the share of victims trafficked for forced labour increased from 18 per cent in 2006 to 38 per cent in 2018.

  5. In high-income countries, 60 per cent of all trafficked children are largely trafficked for sexual exploitation. In low-income countries the percentage of children trafficked for sexual exploitation is lower – 39 per cent. In low-income countries, children are largely trafficked for forced labour (46 per cent).

  6. Based on the reports of 2,196 victims in around 364 cases reviewed, the report enumerates the percentage of victims by the kind of traffickers involved. More than half of the victims (57 per cent) reported being trafficked by ‘business-enterprise-type organised’ criminal groups and 11 per cent by individual traffickers.

  7. The report states that out of all the people investigated, arrested, prosecuted or convicted for human trafficking in 2018, 60 per cent were male. Around 36 per cent of those prosecuted for trafficking were female. Boys and girls under the age of 18 years also accounted for one per cent each of people convicted for trafficking.

  8. Victims trafficked for domestic servitude are usually women, the report notes. Citing data from the Counter-Trafficking Data Collaborative, the report states that 15 per cent of trafficking victims for domestic servitude also experience sexual abuse.

  9. In South Asia, out of the total trafficking victims detected, 45 per cent were children and 44 per cent were adult women. The majority of victims were noted to be trafficked for forced labour. The region reported a high percentage of domestic trafficking wherein the trafficking of people happens within the borders of the country.

  10. The report identifies South Asia as an ‘origin area’ from where victims are trafficked to places in the Middle East, East Asia and the Pacific, Western and Southern Europe and North America.

  11. Of the 5,124 victims of trafficking detected in Nepal, India and Sri Lanka, 52 per cent had been trafficked for forced labour, 36 per cent for sexual exploitation and 12 per cent for other forms of exploitation.

  12. The report advocates for the setting up of specialised anti-trafficking agencies at the national level to combat human trafficking. It also calls for such agencies to infiltrate online trafficking networks and enforce measures to combat the online presence of traffickers.

    Focus and Factoids by T. Rajapandian.

    PARI Library's health archive project is part of an initiative supported by the Azim Premji University to develop a free-access repository of health-related reports relevant to rural India.


United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Austria


United Nations


02 Feb, 2021