What would it take to lift several million people out of poverty?

I have been attending the Bay Area Freedom Summit, a conference dedicated to the fight against human trafficking / forced labour. The estimated number of people currently trapped in forced labour is 27 million (depending on which set of numbers, some estimates say more). One of the factors that promotes human trafficking is of course, poverty. At the 2013 conference, the most memorable part for me was a presentation by Nathan George, founder of Trade as One.

In summary, the main point was: approximately 25-30 million people could be lifted out of extreme poverty every year if just 1% of USA church goers' consumer spending was fair trade.

The calculation went roughly like this (thankyou to Nathan George, for responding to my request and kindly emailing me details afterwards):

  • Numbers of people who attend church in America = 43% of US population
  • Total household expenditure by US consumers (excluding housing and transportation) 300million (pop of USA) x $24,600 (av consumer spending excl housing and transport) = $7.4 Trillion
  • 43% of $7.4 trillion = 3.1 trillion spent by church goers
  • 1% of $3.1 trillion = $31billion
  • For every $5 of retail sales of fair trade product approximately 1 hour of employment for the poor is generated (from research conducted by Trade as One on its suppliers)
  • $31billion / $5 = 6 billion hours
  • 6billion hrs / 40 hr weeks = 150million weeks = 3 million man years of employment = 3 million people employed per year
  • For every person fully employed, 8 - 10 are lifted out of poverty (direct effect on their family plus contribution to local economy through their spending)
  • (Using result of 10 from previous line) 30 million lifted out of poverty every year if just 1% of church goers' consumer spending was fair trade.
(I'm assuming allowing for funds to go where they're needed, but you get the idea).

If you're interested in making a difference to the problem of human trafficking, here are some organizations I like:

  • Not For Sale, a Bay Area organization that fights human trafficking. And if you thought the problem only exists overseas, think again. Major sporting events are just one example of scenarios where women tricked into prostitution are "imported" to "meet demand".
  • International Justice Mission, a group that fights human trafficking on various fronts, but is best known for rescuing victims and working through the legal system to obtain perpetrator convictions (with which goes prevention of reoffending, deterrance to other would-be offenders, and restitution where appropriate).
  • Polaris Project, another group that works on many fronts, but best known for its hotline (1-888-373-7888), where you can call to obtain anything from info for a school project to direct help for someone caught in a trafficking situation.


You can email Margaret at: