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How much does prostitution contribute to the uk economy?


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Andrew Fogg from uses web data to count the number of prostitutes in the UK, adding £3.542bn to the UK economy in the process.

Published in: Economy & Finance

How much does prostitution contribute to the uk economy?

  1. 1. Andrew Fogg Sex, drugs and data: UK GDP Redux Friday 27 June 2014 presented by
  2. 2. this talk is mainly about sex
  3. 3. and data
  4. 4. no drugs I am afraid
  5. 5. let’s start with a question
  6. 6. how much does prostitution contribute to the UK economy?
  7. 7. £1bn?
  8. 8. £2bn?
  9. 9. £5.314bn
  10. 10. 0.4% GDP
  11. 11. £5.314bn that is a big number
  12. 12. bigger than the entire economy of Moldova
  13. 13. bigger than 28% of global economies
  14. 14. but it would only buy 45% of WhatsApp
  15. 15. restatement of accounts in line with EU accounting guidelines
  16. 16. “illegal transactions to which all parties consent should be included in national accounts”
  17. 17. this includes prostitution and sale of illegal drugs
  18. 18. how did the ONS calculate that number for prostitution?
  19. 19. very simple
  20. 20. there are lots of assumptions and the number of prostitutes relies on one study
  21. 21. tried to count all the prostitutes in London over 6 months in 2004
  22. 22. phoned every brothel and escort agency they could find advertised
  23. 23. 7,000 (+115) estimated count of off-street prostitutes in London (plus estimate of on-street prostitutes from police)
  24. 24. scaled out to the UK using population statistics
  25. 25. how reliable is that number? especially the scaling assumption?
  26. 26. time to look at some web data
  27. 27. many activities associated with prostitution are illegal in the UK
  28. 28. but paying for sex is actually legal
  29. 29. as a result prostitution sits in a grey area and is widely marketed on the web
  30. 30. built an API to AdultWork directory using
  31. 31. AdultWork is ranked 174 top site in UK by Alexa
  32. 32. searched for all sex workers based in the UK and downloaded the data
  33. 33. categorised each sex worker by location (London / not London)
  34. 34. counted the number of London based prostitutes and estimated the UK total using scale assumption
  35. 35. then counted the number of UK based prostitutes on AdultWork
  36. 36. it seems that the scaling assumption is reasonable
  37. 37. so the ONS numbers are good?
  38. 38. not quite
  39. 39. what is wrong with this picture?
  40. 40. there are no men
  41. 41. “no information is included regarding men working in the sex industry”
  42. 42. 40% of the prostitutes on AdultWork are men (in London and across UK)
  43. 43. recalculating GDP to take into account male prostitution gives a dramatic increase
  44. 44. £8.856bn new number
  45. 45. 0.6% GDP
  46. 46. the new total is bigger than the entire economy of Iceland
  47. 47. bigger than 37% of global economies
  48. 48. but it would still only buy 75% of WhatsApp
  49. 49. this is only a preliminary analysis
  50. 50. but i just added £3.542bn to the UK economy
  51. 51. plan to investigate further by examining the price per visit (data is also available on the web)
  52. 52. benefit of using web data for this kind of analysis is that it is up to date and can be tracked
  53. 53. learn more at