Although labor exploitation has been criminalized as human trafficking, also known as labor trafficking, forced labor, or modern slavery, globally, many cases remain undetected. In part, this underreporting is arguably due to low levels of self-identification of victimization of labor trafficking. Low self-identification suggests that a discrepancy exists between legal definitions of labor trafficking victimhood and the lived experiences of work and employment by what are often labor migrants. This contribution discusses scholarly literature that identifies factors that obstruct self-identification among those subjected to labor exploitation. Also, a study is discussed that analyzed how some victims do arrive at self-identification. This contribution finds that labor trafficking often refers to situations in which migrants have consciously left their country of origin in search of work. Their work conditions may be valued as a temporary arrangement to achieve upward social mobility and considered from their home country’s work and income standards. Therefore, such migrants may perceive themselves as active agents of their destiny who make their own decisions in engaging in certain working conditions and not as passive victims of exploitation. Finally, two trajectories through which victims of labor exploitation do arrive at self-identification are discussed. On the first path, the victim gradually comes to self-identification. On the second path, a radical event in the personal life of victims triggers them to become aware of their victimhood. The insights provided in this chapter are valuable for the future combat of labor trafficking, in which victim self-identification plays an important role.

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Erasmus School of Law

Hiah, J., & Van Meeteren, M. (2018). Self-Identification of Victimization of Labor Trafficking. In The Palgrave International Handbook of Human Trafficking. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-63192-9_86-1