Strategies to Estimate Global Prevalence of Trafficking for Sexual Exploitation

Global Estimation Based on Extrapolation

The research community faces two major challenges in estimating the global prevalence of human trafficking for sexual exploitation: common or agreed-upon measures, and feasible data collection methods. Both topics have their own challenges and deserve separate discussions. We tackle the second challenge here by proposing a few data collection strategies predicated upon the assumptions sexual exploitation occurs mainly in the commercial sex trade, with some definable geographical boundaries, and potential victims maintain social networks or are linked to others in some fashion.

Our strategies can apply to two primary data scenarios commonly encountered in estimating prevalence in human trafficking activities: using existing records and collecting primary data. The first approach is designed for analysis of identified trafficking cases where a body of records already exists and has to be mined. The second strategy is intended for collecting first-hand data from hard-to-find victims through survey methods. Empirical research on human trafficking remains underdeveloped, and many gaps are still filled with wild claims and sensational stories.

This article attempts to propose workable estimation strategies to close the knowledge gaps on the incidence and prevalence of human trafficking activities. Campaigns against human trafficking cannot be sustained, or even remain credible, without sound empirical evidence.

The need for and challenges in empirical research and producing estimates on the scale of human trafficking have been well-discussed. Laczko and Gozdziak detailed the multitude of conceptual and methodological challenges in these research efforts (2005).

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