The EU has demanded rapid payment of £1.7 billion from the UK because the economy has done better than predicted. Some of this is because the prostitution market is now considered as part of our national accounts, contributing an extra £5.3 billion to GDP at 2009 prices, which is 0.35% of GDP – half that of agriculture. But is this a reasonable estimate?
This £5.3 billion figure was assessed by the Office of National Statistics in May 2014 based on the following assumptions, derived from this analysis. To quote the ONS:
• Number of prostitutes in UK: 61,000
• Average cost per visit: £67
• Clients per prostitute per week: 25
• Number of weeks worked per year: 52
Multiply these up and you get £5.3 billion at 2009 prices, which is around £5.7 billion now.
This assessment has been severely questioned. Brooke Magnanti, aka blogger Belle de Jour, reckoned it might be ten times too high. In contrast others have said it should be £9 billion as it ignores male prostitution. Another blogger, Jolyon, who writes for Tax Relief 4 Escorts and who claims a maths degree from Cambridge, did a detailed critique. He points out the flaws in the survey on which the 61,000 is based, and claims the assumed workload is too high and that the cost per visit (which the ONS based on PunterNet) seems too low: it is somewhat ironic that the ONS use an information source that a previous minister, Harriet Harman, tried to shut down.