Interdisciplinary Conference on Human Trafficking at the University of Nebraska


Date of this Version



Report commissioned by the International Organization for Migration, with financial support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Kiev, Ukraine.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the International Organization for Migration, Mission in Ukraine. This publication was made possible through support provided by U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Mission for Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the International Organization for Migration or the U.S. Agency for International Development.


This report summarizes the results of three studies done to estimate the extent of human trafficking from Ukraine. The studies were designed and reported by Dr. Ronald Hampton, principal investigator, Dr. Dwayne Ball, and (for one study) Ms. Julie Pennington, all of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Business Administration Marketing Department.

Our intent in doing multiple survey studies was to attempt to converge on an estimate. Each method used has different and inevitable threats to validity, and there is no perfect method for estimating the extent of such a rare, hidden, and sometimes shameful event. Therefore, by using methods with different threats, we hoped to counter the inevitable criticism of the validity of a single method, and make any estimates at which we arrived much more credible.

The results from the three studies lead us to conclude that in the past three–five years, at least 22,000 Ukrainian citizens per year, and perhaps more than 36,000 per year, have gone abroad to work and have been enslaved in one form or another. The total number enslaved appears to be probably well in excess of 110,000.

We believe the three survey methods are probably biased so as to produce somewhat smaller numbers of victims than the actual numbers, but are nonetheless the best that can be achieved. Hence we say, “Well in excess of.”

The methods and results of the three studies are tabulated below. The methodology and results are further discussed in subsequent chapters on each study. One critical point to mention here is that we used a common conceptual definition of human trafficking in all three studies: a resident left his or her home country and was forced to work in a foreign country for little or no pay. This definition allows us to encompass not only forms of slavery that exist in the popular imagination, such as brothel slavery or certain kinds of factory and agricultural slavery, but also “wage slavery” or “debt bondage,” in which slaves are nominally paid, but usually never enough to buy their way out of a forced work environment.

The first study was a survey of close families done in five Eastern European countries, including Ukraine. This study was relatively small given the fact that finding human trafficking victims is like finding needles in a haystack (1,345 close families in Ukraine were surveyed). In addition, when a member of each close family was asked to specify how many members of that family had been trafficked, no time frame was specified, although it would be reasonable to assume that most answers were relevant to the past five–ten years. This study estimated that about 110,000 Ukrainians had been trafficked abroad. For reasons discussed in the study report, we believe this estimate is low.

The second study was a survey of “key informants.” This is quite different from surveying close families or households. In the surveys of close families and households (Studies 2 and 3), someone potentially close to a trafficking victim was asked if someone in the family or household had been trafficked. There may be a natural reluctance to answer such a question positively, even if someone close has been victimized. Thus, estimates are probably biased downward. In Study 2, however, the person asked was someone not of the household or family of a potential victim, but a knowledgeable person in the neighborhood or a head teacher from a child’s school. Thus, the reluctance to answer positively would probably be much lessened on the part of the informant. However, the knowledge of someone’s victim status might be lessened as well, due to social distance. Thus, we replaced one probable major source of bias with another. In the case of the key informant study, our best estimate of known trafficking victims in Ukraine was about 110,000 over five years. However, when we asked about strongly suspected victims, we estimated that there were another 110,000. Thus, we feel quite certain the number of victims over the past five years has exceeded 22,000 per year, and may possibly be 44,000 per year or higher.

The third study yielded the most accurate estimates in terms of low sampling error, since it was a survey of over 13,000 households. Heads of households were interviewed and asked if anyone in the household had been trafficked over the past three years. From this survey, we obtained an estimate of about 111,000 persons trafficked over the past three years, or about 37,000 per year. This study has the same form of bias as the first study. That is, we are asking someone in a family or household to reveal that someone close to him or her was a trafficking victim. Thus, there is some unknown bias, almost certainly downward.

So, looking across studies, we conclude that we can be fairly confident that at least 22,000 Ukrainians per year have been enslaved abroad over the past 3 to 5 years, possibly close to double that number. Most – perhaps no more than five or ten per cent, ever get help from the rehabilitation experts at NGOs.

Subsequent to the Table below, each study will be discussed in turn with results first, and then an extensive discussion of methodology.