An article on the net worth of prostitution in Britain’s Significance magazine – a very readable exposition of matters statistical – tickled my funny bone. The following quote pretty much pins it down:
The EU has demanded rapid payment of £1.7 billion from the UK because our economy has done better than predicted, and some of this is due to the prostitution market now being considered as part of our National Accounts and contributing an extra £5.3 billion to GDP at 2009 prices, which is 0.35% of GDP, half that of agriculture.
This, on the basis of some pretty torturous calculations by EU bureaucrats. Problem: in order to yield that kind of income, British light women had to have averaged about £100,000 per year. In other words:
– 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
This works out to a nice, round figure of 1,300 tricks per annum, per sex worker. (I really distrust nice, round figures, but okay.) Needless to say, this figure is being disputed, with alternative ones pointing in every direction.
My main issue here is the apparent ease with which distant bureaucrats decide how much is owed them. I heartily agree with the writer’s conclusion that “…[a]lthough this is a big statistical challenge, such an important contribution to the economy deserves a more robust analysis.” All I can add is that any kind of statistical calculation that affects the lives of human beings should be on a firm empirical basis.