Migrant sex workers looking to fund studies or travel - study

Long Lunch 10/10/2018

Migrants who illegally work in New Zealand’s sex industry are doing it to help fund studies or further travel, according to a new study.

University of Otago researchers set out to investigate whether sex workers were desperate or exploited but found rather opposite results.

They just see it as something they’re doing on their travels.

Associate professor Gillian Abel, who co-authored the report, told RadioLIVE that many migrant sex workers hail from Europe or the United States, and are simply looking for some extra cash.

“They just see as something they’re doing on their travels. Nobody back home will ever know about it,” said Dr Abel.

With migrants often limited to minimum wage jobs in food or hospitality, Dr Abel suggested they see sex work as a more profitable opportunity.

“And for many, it’s the first time they’ve engaged in sex work before,” she said.

Otago researchers conducted interviews with 11 female migrant sex workers and nine stakeholders for the report, which included brothel operators, sex health specialists and stakeholders from the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective.

All of the migrant sex workers surveyed, including the most vulnerable, told the researchers they engaged in the work by choice rather than being trafficked.

The survey found that the migrant sex workers who couldn’t speak English tended to have more vulnerable situations, often working in less reputable brothels.

“That tends to be the minority from what I understand,” Dr Abel emphasised. 

Listen to the full interview with Gillian Abel above.

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