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Prostitution and sex work: nature and prevalence in England and Wales



This research, commissioned by the Home Office and the Office of the South Wales Police and Crime Commissioner, explores the current nature and prevalence of prostitution and sex work in England and Wales.  We take into account that contemporary prostitution and sex work may be complex, operate in a variety of contexts, with multiple realities experienced by those involved.

The work included a systematic literature search, to review existing evidence; a public online survey (June-December 2018, receiving 1,180 complete responses, of which 529 (45%) were from individuals currently or formerly involved in prostitution and sex work); follow-up in-depth qualitative questionnaires with over 40 survey respondents as well as further questionnaires via frontline NGOs to individuals currently or formerly in prostitution and sex work whom an online survey was unlikely to reach; and other written and in-person consultation with individuals, with collectives, non-governmental organisations, police, health workers, academics and government departments.

The outputs are:

(1) a typology, which is a combination of a discussion of different settings/services; and a discussion of the cross-cutting themes that respondents raised (for example, around use of technology, how payment works, managing safety, and so on).

(2) a prevalence data overview, data quality assessment tool, and suggestions for how prevalence work could be developed further in the future.  

Recommendations on law or policy were not within the remit of this research.

We submitted our final report to the Home Office in June 2019.  The report needs to be laid in Parliament since it was initiated by a Select Committee Report recommendation (HASC, 2016).  We are advised that it will be published by the end of October 2019, but do not have a precise publication date as yet.  We are not able to comment on the findings prior to publication so queries should be directed to the Home Office Media Team.  See

The research team comprised Dr Natasha Mulvihill (queries can be directed to, Dr Andrea Matolcsi, Dr Alba Lanau Sanchez and Sarah-Jane Walker.  The lead applicant for this research was Professor Marianne Hester (

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  • SPS Centre for Gender and Violence Research

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