UK: Red mist obscures red light statistics

Campaigners too readily accept inflated figures for trafficked women, but we must base our policy on evidence, not emotion

Belinda Brooks-Gordon, Friday 3 April 2009 16.54 BST

To argue there is a universal truth about trafficking does science, policy and trafficked people a disservice. The figure of 80,000 sex workers (which included women, men and transsexuals) in the UK was first suggested in 1999 in a Europap-UK briefing paper. Despite its speculative nature and the author Hilary Kinnell’s refusal to make claims beyond her data, the estimate of 80,000 has been widely reported as a firm figure, often applying only to women and often in the context of claims that the sex industry is expanding rapidly (which cannot be the case if the figure of 80,000 has remained the same for 10 years).

I and several colleagues (including Kinnell) across three universities have just carried out a replication of the Europap study using the same methods and multipliers derived from original study to provide various updated estimates of the wider population of sex workers. We, however, point out the limits of our estimates and the methodological difficulties of estimating the size of this hidden population. While I can’t divulge the findings yet, as it would compromise the originality of the academic article, we will announce them as soon as the academic paper is published. Continue reading