Understanding The Market System of Human Trafficking
A Case Study of Sabah, Malaysia
The crime of human trafficking is a phenomenon that practically affects every part of the world. The crime is generally influenced by various political as well as socio-economic factors. Oftentimes, victimization, causal factors, and policy response receive the most attention in human trafficking studies, while other aspects like the market system or supply and demand in human trafficking are given little focus. Hence, the objective of this paper is to analyze the market system and the intrinsic elements that influence the supply and demand in human trafficking, with a reference to the case study of Sabah, Malaysia. The qualitative data for this paper were obtained through personal observation and interviews with public officials from the government enforcement agencies like the Royal Malaysian Police, Immigration Department of Malaysia, as well as former traffickers, ex-victims, and academicians. Besides, various reports from the government, non-governmental organizations, and news media helped to collate and provide a comprehensive analysis of the subject matter. Using perspectives from the economics of crime, this paper examined the macro and micro-level factors that regulate the supply and demand in human trafficking. The findings suggest that the supply of trafficked labour in Sabah is influenced by macro-level factors like globalization, unequal economic development, demographic factors, and domestic conflict, while the demand for trafficked labour is amplified by the factors such as consumers, exploiters, socio-culture, and the state. These elements are essential in regulating the market system of supply and demand in human trafficking. An inclusive understanding of supply and demand in human trafficking is important as it has implications for knowledge development as well as policy responses to disrupt the market forces that sustain the crime.