Human Trafficking and Legalized Prostitution


Research on the Link between Human Trafficking and Legalized Prostitution

Human Trafficking is a global problem with 27 million victims worldwide trafficked for forced labour or commercial sex exploitation.  According to the International Labor Organization, human trafficking is a $32 billion industry, second in organized crime only to illicit drugs.  A 2012 study published in the World Development, “Does Legalized Prostitution Increase Human Trafficking?” investigates the effect of legalized prostitution on human trafficking inflows into high-income countries.  In the concluding remarks this study states:

“The scale effect of legalizing prostitution leads to an expansion of the prostitution market and thus an increase in human trafficking, while the substitution effect reduces demand for trafficked prostitutes by favoring prostitutes who have legal residence in a country. Our quantitative empirical analysis for a cross-section of up to 150 countries shows that the scale effect dominates the substitution effect. On average, countries with legalized prostitution experience a larger degree of reported human trafficking inflows.”

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