Practitioner Resource 3: Understanding existing prevalence data on the UK sex industry

Katie Thorlby, Natasha Mulvihill

Research output: Other contribution

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This resource provides an overview of existing prevalence data on prostitution and sex work in England and Wales. It is based on research carried out by a team of researchers at the University of Bristol who were commissioned by the Home Office and the Office of the South Wales Police and Crime Commissioner to report on the current ‘nature’ and ‘prevalence’ of prostitution in England and Wales. The research was carried out between May 2018 and June 2019 and used a working definition that took a broad view of the sex industry: ‘Prostitution and/or sex work constitutes the provision of sexual or erotic acts or sexual intimacy in exchange for payment or other benefit or need’ (Hester et al., 2019, p.2). As part of this research project, the team of researchers carried out a systematic search for relevant academic literature and other publications; conducted a public online survey; carried out follow-up in-depth email questionnaires with survey respondents who identified as currently or recently involved in prostitution and sex work; sent questionnaires to NGOs to administer to their services-users or members; and held consultations and discussions with a wide range of organisations. Based on this data, they developed a typology to describe and classify contemporary practices. The typology has two elements: six cross-cutting themes and fourteen settings and services. They also explored data sources for estimating the national prevalence of those involved in sex work and prostitution, concluding that currently in the UK, ‘no source of data allows for the production of representative population estimates for this group’ (Hester et al., 2019, p.3).
Original languageEnglish
PublisherUniversity of Bristol
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jul 2020

Structured keywords

  • SPS Centre for Gender and Violence Research


  • Prostitution
  • Sex Work
  • Practitioners


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