Microeconomic Policy Critique –  Discussion of Human Trafficking

“After intense discussion with groundbreaking educators, from home and around the world, it is becoming more clear to me than ever, we need human rights education in our classrooms.”

Problem Definition –
Human rights violations are not only criminal behavior but they also place a heavy financial burden on social welfare systems. Human trafficking is arguably the most horrific human rights violation. Programs are put into place to mitigate, lessen, and/or treat human trafficking, such as rescue and recovery missions, but these are temporary bandages that do not address the root cause of the human rights violations and also place unsustainable burden on the social welfare systems. Addressing Human Trafficking by applying the concept of supply and demand, and creating a comprehensive Human Rights education campaign in the k-12 system could minimize the incidences of human trafficking and lessen the impact on social welfare systems. The positive implications on a community that embraces and cultivates comprehensive human rights education in the school system has been proven effective. The current approach to solving human trafficking by rescuing victims and heavily fining or imprisoning the traffickers is a reactive approach and does little to prevent the occurrence.

Economic Consequences of Human Trafficking

Costs associated with human trafficking include medical treatment of victims, limited access to education, and inability to find sustainable work. This is further exemplified by the cycle of abuse. Victims of human trafficking are more likely to live in abusive situations. The consequences of abuse are passed from parent to child, contributing to dependence on the social welfare system and leading to systemic poverty. These costs become a heavy burden on state’s social welfare systems.

In addition to the burden on local social service systems, government and non-government organizations focus millions of federal dollars to various programs that provide services for victims of human trafficking. One such example is the Health & Human Services offices of Refugee Relocation provided over $30 million in grants to fund projects that provide case management and other direct services (Urban Institute, 2008). This type of funding and services are authorized via the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, to provide access to housing, educational programs, job training, health care, and legal services (Urban Institute, 2008). Part of this funding also is applied to projects that raise awareness. This initiative to raise awareness is not a replacement for a comprehensive education on human rights that has the potential to change the life trajectory of any individual that is at-risk or living in an environment that has high incidence rates of human trafficking.

Critique of Existing Policy Solutions: Unintended Consequences of Reactive approaches to Human Trafficking  – 

The private prison system is big business and has been guilty of corruption. A judge in Pennsylvania was recently convicted of receiving funds to funnel youth to private prisons. The judge would be an example of an interested party that has low share and is likely to collude. This is another reason why the reactive measures for human trafficking are inefficient.

A potentially unintended consequence of this pressure to address human trafficking in a reactive way is the de-criminalizing of victims of human trafficking. The policy has been misinterpreted by many as a “legalizing” of prostitution and treating the trafficking industry as an open market. Less regulation could encourage new traffickers to enter the industry, creating a competitive market, placing vulnerable populations at higher risk of being trafficked.

Alternative Approaches

The current models of providing funding and services to human trafficking victims without addressing the root cause of the demand is unsustainable. As the problem of human trafficking continues, the funding is disproportionately focused on reactive measures and eventually the trade-off between equity and efficiency will not be enough to sustain finances. Government and non-government organizations should be focused on creating a comprehensive and core curriculum on human rights education that is presented to all students and communities via the k-12 system and community outreach programs. This approach is superior to the existing reactive approach because it would address the cause of human trafficking and not just the results of it. By creating an informed community that perpetuates the dissemination of information, we can cut-off of the demand and minimize the burden on social welfare systems and also free up funding from other government and non-government organizations.

Conclusion –

The real answer to human trafficking is a policy that attacks the root cause, ends the demand for human trafficking via a strong human rights education policy to implement a comprehensive human rights education program in the k-12 education system. The financial impact would be evident in a longitudinal study. “What is important for economists, however, is always to seek to use the economy’s resources as efficiently as possible in the pursuit of society’s goals, whatever those goals may be.” (Krugman et al., 2014).
My next position paper will be a detailed research proposal measuring the impacts of a human rights education.


Krugman, Paul, Robin Wells, Kathryn Grady. (2014). Essentials of Economics. New
York, NY: Worth Publishers. 

Urban Institute, Justice Policy Center. (2008). An Analysis of Federally Prosecuted Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) Cases since the Passage of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000. Washington, D.C.: Kevonne Small, J.D., Ph.D. William Adams, M.P.P. Colleen Owens, and
Kevin Roland. 

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