Factors of Vulnerability to Human Trafficking and Prospects for Reintegration of Former Victims. Evidence from the Philippines
By Elsa Artadi, Martina Bjorkman, and Eliana La Ferrara
Trafficking of persons is a serious and very complex issue, although too often neglected, in many developing countries, including the Philippines. We make a first attempt to produce empirical research from the angle of development economists to assess the risk factors for entering into trafficking and evaluate the prospects of reintegration of trafficked victims. We have interviewed young women resident in shelters in the Cebu area and the sample consists of girls 14 years and above living in 12 shelters in the Cebu area. We find that trafficked victims have on average lower levels of education than the non-trafficked girls. Trafficking victims are also more likely to come from larger families. 20 percent of the girls came from households where the mother was absent during the last year she lived with her family. Therefore, as expected, income appears as a main factor of vulnerability. Any policy oriented to create safety nets for families at risk, empowering women, and create better labor opportunities for girls is likely to reduce to probabilities of entering into trafficking. In terms of family dynamics, trafficking victims come from families with relatively more inter-personal conflicts. There is also more prevalence of physical violence in houses where trafficked victims lived. The violent home environment of these vulnerable girls needs to be kept in mind when designing reintegration programs. Using techniques that elicit the expectations that the girls had when leaving their household and then comparing them with what actually happened, we observe that trafficked girls underestimate the cost of leaving the household (in terms of likelihood to get pregnant, ill, use drugs) and overestimate the benefits (in terms of likelihood to marry a foreign man and being able to send back money to the family). Moreover, we also find that friends are the most prevalent mode of recruitment of trafficking while the role of formal recruiters is less important. In our sample, only 27 percent of the girls obtained their job via a recruiter. Information campaigns to explain the danger of the jobs offered could contribute to stopping the trafficking phenomenon. Finally, important insights emerged by looking at inter-temporal preferences and risk preferences of our respondents, where these preferences were elicited using the tools of experimental economics. Former victims of trafficking exhibited a relatively high degree of impatience compared to other girls. On the other hand, both groups were extremely risk averse. These results suggests that an important role should be given, when designing reintegration programs for vulnerable girls – and especially former victims of trafficking – in working on the formation of their expectation, inter-temporal preferences and risk preferences.