Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The ticking time bomb: Economic growth in Asia and its effects on global human trafficking

We’ve all heard about the perils of outsourcing for jobs in America. The option of moving operations to a country with low wages and a lack of regulatory systems offer significant financial incentives for all companies involved. This shift has marked a spike in competition for jobs in the United States. It’s a common assumption to assume that the livelihoods of those abroad are thriving with the plethora of jobs now available to them. This is undoubtedly true for many. But there’s another side.

As foreign money pours into Asian economies, social systems are being thrown for a loop. The change in the job market has inspired many in poverty to work hard to secure higher salaries, raise standards of living, and strive towards an economically stable lifestyle. As workers begin to take on many of these roles, the standard of living of the countries is beginning to climb to new heights. Also increasing are prices for goods, and those below the poverty line are scrambling to supplement their now insufficient income. The enormous lengths that these workers go to in order to achieve monetary stability is now making them more vulnerable than ever to human trafficking.

Migration in Asia has recently spiked to record levels, and studies show that 30-40% of this migration is unregulated entirely. The proportion of female workers looking for domestic jobs are on the rise too. Meanwhile, gangs and other illicit networks of brothers, sweatshops, and factories are forming, creating demand for migrant women attracted to the promise of high wages.

A recent report released by The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has found conclusive evidence that most trafficking is carried out by people whose nationality is the same as that of the victims. The study also found that the trafficking organizers are disproportionality less likely to be caught than foot-soldiers who conduct the daily tasks of trafficking. This is alarming for many reasons, namely that foot soldiers are easily replaced while their organizers remain permanent figures in the scene. Ultimately, the invisibility that these higher ups are able to maintain is what perpetuates multiple transport operations and allows human trafficking to occur across the international stage.  

The sad reality is that the Asia is just one example of direct correlations between economic shifts and expanding human trafficking circles. Today, migrants traveling from Asia are exploited all over the United States, including Chicago, by their own people and by others. The changing trends in migration only reinforce the need for AATOP. While there is no magic key to resolving this blatant violation of human rights, the solution lies somewhere in grassroots conversation and collaboration, a vision that AATOP will continually aim to achieve.

Nikhitha Murali, Intern

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