Types of exploitation

Defining the most common types of exploitation and human trafficking

Illustration showing some of the forms of exploitation

There are many forms of exploitation into which people can be trafficked and held in slavery. 

These crimes are happening in every corner of the world and can include any person, regardless of age, socio-economic background or location.

As a result, each case can look very different. Below are some of the most commonly reported forms of human trafficking and modern slavery.

 

Sexual exploitation illustration showing neon sign and cash


This is when someone is deceived, coerced or forced to take part in sexual activity. Places where someone could be sexually exploited:

  • Prostitution
  • Brothels – massage/sauna
  • Escort agencies
  • Pole/lap dancing
  • Forced marriage
  • Stripping on a web cam
  • Phone sex lines
  • Internet chat rooms
  • Pornography
  • Mail order brides
  • Sex tourism

Labour exploitation illustration showing mining equipment, coffee sacks and tinned fish


This refers to situations where people are coerced to work for little or no remuneration, often under threat of punishment. There are a number of means through which a person can be coerced, including:

  • Use of violence or intimidation
  • Accumulated debt
  • Retention of identity papers
  • Threat of exposure to immigration authorities

All types of labour, within every industry, are susceptible to labour exploitation. Some common sectors and industries that are identified as vulnerable include:

  • Manufacturing
  • Factory work
  • Hospitality
  • Construction
  • Agriculture
  • Fishing
  • Car washes
  • Nail bars


A domestic worker or helper is a person who works within their employer’s home, performing a variety of tasks. This arrangement becomes exploitative when there are restrictions on the domestic worker’s movement, and they are forced to work long hours for little pay. They may also suffer physical and sexual abuse.

Places where someone can be in domestic servitude:

  • In a private home
  • In a community such as a commune

Forced marriage illustration showing wedding rings and sad thought bubble


This is when a person is put under pressure to marry someone. They may be threatened with physical or sexual violence or placed under emotional or psychological distress to achieve these aims.

Situations where you may find forced marriage used:

  • To gain access into a country
  • To gain access to benefits

Drug trade illustration showing various types of narcotics

Forced criminality illustration showing fake DVD, benefits paperwork and begging sign
This is when somebody is forced to carry out criminal activity through coercion or deception. Forced criminality can take many forms, including:

  • Drug trade, e.g. cannabis cultivation, drug distribution
  • Begging
  • Pick-pocketing
  • Bag snatching
  • ATM theft
  • Selling of counterfeit goods

Forced criminality also encompasses social welfare fraud. This takes place when exploiters falsely apply for tax credits and other welfare benefits using the victims’ details. It is not only the state that is the victim of social welfare fraud, there is often horrific abuse used against the individual in order to coerce them into falsely applying for benefits.

Child soldiers illustration showing various weapons on wooden ABC blocks


These are children and young people, ranging from as young as four up to 18, who are used for any military purpose. It affects both males and females.

Children may be used for frontline combat – which means they are made to commit acts of violence – or within auxiliary roles, such as informants or kitchen hands. Often, the children are also sexually abused.

This type of practice is most prevalent in parts of Africa and Asia.

Organ harvesting illustration showing a kidney with a price tag


The trafficking in organs involves removing a part of the body, commonly the kidneys and liver, to sell often as an illegal trade. Organs can be taken in a number of ways:

  • Trade – a victim formally or informally agrees to sell an organ, but are then cheated because they are not paid for the organ, or are paid less than the promised price
  • Ailments – a vulnerable person is treated for an ailment, which may or may not exist, and the organs are removed without the victim’s knowledge
  • Extortion – a victim may be kidnapped from their family and organs removed without consent

Learn to spot the signs

Identifying the signs of human trafficking and modern slavery is the first step to stopping these crimes

Spot the Signs

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