Barriers to Employment for Human Trafficking Survivors

Barriers to Employment for Human Trafficking Survivors

After leaving a trafficking situation, there are a multitude of considerations for “next steps” to be made—short-term, long-term, physical, psychological, emotional, and more. For some, economic opportunities, whether through employment or other income sources, are prioritized after exiting a trafficking situation.(1) While the desire for economic opportunities may be present, obtaining employment is not an easy task, and survivors of human trafficking often face unique barriers in the process. These are some of the barriers survivors may face to securing employment:

  • A criminal record: In trafficking situations, individuals may be made to commit illegal acts, often related to drugs, theft, or prostitution, which result in criminal records.(2) This can pose a challenge in applying for or securing employment.
  • Educational and skill barriers: In addition to the possibility of a criminal record, survivors may lack the educational levels or skill requirements for job openings..A survivor may have been trafficked at a young age and perhaps never finished school. While in a trafficking situation, a survivor may have never had the opportunity to develop the skills needed for securing and maintaining stable employment
  • Immigration status: While any survivor may face unique barriers to employment, foreign-born survivors may encounter additional barriers to employment. There may be a lack of work authorization, identification, or legal documentation, which can be crucial in applying for and securing a job.
  • Transportation barriers: Public transportation systems can be inaccessible to those in rural sittings, overwhelming to whose without experience using public transportation, or unaffordable to those without employment. Lack of reliable transportation can then create a barrier to obtaining and maintaining employment. .
  • Language barriers: Furthermore, there are often language barriers that foreign-born survivors experience in interactions with others that can prevent them from securing employment.(3)

It is clear that survivors of human trafficking face unique barriers to gaining employment, from language to records to incompatible skills, and would benefit from services related to employment.

Author: Erin King, BSW Intern

Date: 11/16/16

1 Office for Victims of Crime Training and Technical Assistance Center. (2016). Retrieved from
2 Ohio Justice and Policy Center. (2016). Retrieved from
3 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,
Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation.(n.d.).Retrieved from



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