International sources of data

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As we have previously discussed, it is impossible to say for sure what the true scale of the problem of human trafficking is around the world, and the vast majority goes unreported. Nevertheless, there are several ongoing efforts to create and provide datasets which can be useful for analysis and insight. 

It is important to understand what each dataset can and can’t show. In this lesson, we will look at some of the most commonly used sources.


The Counter Trafficking Data Collective (CTDC) is arguably the most comprehensive and open source of information available. Its data is often quoted by other organisations, including the UN and ILO. It collates data of reported cases from around the world, based on police reports.

The source of its data is important – it is collected from police reports and hotline calls, so cannot be assumed to be comprehensive. Many incidents of trafficking are never reported.

CTDC provides many useful visualisation tools to help understand the data. It does not, however, have complete datasets for Southern Africa.

This page looks specifically at cases involving people trafficked for the purposes of domestic work. It demonstrates that most reported cases are international, and between regions (for example, Asian women trafficked to the Americas), and the tools most often used to prevent people escaping their circumstances. 

Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP)

For the last  20 years, the US State Department has published an annual Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP). This report consists of country profiles compiled by the department, based on data including police reports. It is comprehensive in its analysis and a key tool for policy making around the world, but the data which underpins the report is not published openly. The TIP report includes a tier ranking for countries based on prevalence of trafficking and policy frameworks for dealing with the issue.


Global Slavery Index (GSI), Global Estimates of Modern Slavery (GEMS)

The Global Slavery Index builds on the work of the 2017 Global Estimates of Modern Slavery, produced by the International Labour Organization (ILO), Walk Free Foundation and the International Organization for Migration (IOM). The report figures are often quoted in articles about human trafficking – it’s headline figure that 40.3 million people were believed to be in conditions of modern slavery in 2016 is well cited.

The GSI and GEMS reports are both based on the same data: global surveys conducted with more than 71 000 people, which asked about personal experiences with the issue.

Each report combines this data with other sources, such as the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to produce estimates.

Traffick Analysis Hub

Traffick Analysis Hub is a collaboration between IBM and multiple international partners to build a data sharing centre for researchers, academics and law enforcement. It uses IBM’s Watson AI to aggregate data about human trafficking from many sources, including news reports and social media, in order to identify potential cases and patterns.

Access to the service is, however, restricted for the time being. 

Let’s recap…