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


  • Funder: Home Office and the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for South Wales
  • Lead Applicant: Professor Marianne Hester
  • Co-Researchers: Dr Natasha Mulvihill, Dr Andrea Matolcsi, Dr Alba Lanau, Dr Geetanjali Gangoli
  • Research Centre: Centre for Gender and Violence Research


This Home Office funded research will explore the current nature and prevalence of prostitution and sex work in England and Wales.  We will take into account that contemporary prostitution may be complex, operate in a variety of contexts, with multiple realities experienced by those involved. The work includes a systematic review of the literature and consultation with individuals currently/formerly involved in prostitution and sex work; non-governmental organisations; police; health workers; academics and government departments.  The planned outputs are a typology to capture different forms, experiences and settings or contexts for the practice of prostitution and sex work, a data overview and development of robust tools to populate the typology with estimates of prevalence.
Please continue to check this page for updates.  For general queries, please contact Dr Natasha Mulvihill ( or Dr Andrea Matolcsi (    The lead applicant Professor Marianne Hester can be contacted on

How you can help

We are seeking input from people currently or formerly involved in prostitution and sex work, academics, NGOs/charities, criminal justice and health practitioners, police and others. In the first instance we asked people to complete a survey  by close of Monday 16 July 2018 about their opinions and experiences. These responses are informing the early stage of our work. The survey will remain open until 31 December 2018 to allow for ongoing engagement.  We will check these ongoing responses weekly.
Complete the survey.

Project Updates (ongoing)

Update 18 July 2018

Thank you to everyone who has participated in the initial survey.  As at 11am on 18 July 2018, we had 1,168 responses.  We have had a significant response from those involved currently, previously or intermittently in prostitution and/or sex work/allied sexual services in multiple settings, of different genders and circumstances.  We have also had responses from individuals who pay for sex, agencies which facilitate and host sexual services, NGOs, academics, police and others.  The respondent profile is as follows:

  • 43% from individuals sex working/involved in prostitution (current or former)
  • 29% expressing ‘No Affiliation’
  • 9% from NGOs/charities
  • 9% identifying as ‘Other’
  • 5% from the Higher Education sector
  • 3% from Police
  • 1% from the Health sector
  • 1% from the Criminal Justice sector

We have now downloaded the responses for analysis.

We are conscious that the online survey method will reach some groups rather than others.  We will be working with relevant intermediaries to enable the voices of those who would not have access to, or awareness of, this survey.

We will need some time now to collate the data and do justice to each contribution.  By and during Autumn 2018, we will identify and get in touch with a representative range of respondents who indicated that they would be happy to contribute further.  Unfortunately, given the high numbers of respondents and the limited time we have to do this work, we cannot speak to all of you.  However, be assured that we aim to reflect the full breadth of opinion and experience that you have shared with us.

At the same time as analysing the survey responses, we are also reviewing the academic and other literature on this area.  Given our focus is on nature (and prevalence), we are paying particular attention to recent literature which includes the voices and experiences of those directly involved in prostitution and/or sex work.  We are including the international literature, though recognising that England and Wales are the geographical remit of this work.

Update 6 July 2018

Survey FAQs - 6 July update (PDF, 114kB)

Thank you to everyone who has responded so far.  The survey opened at 9pm on Tuesday 26 June.  As at 1.30pm on Friday 6 July, we have had 408 responses.

  • 46% from individuals currently or formerly involved in prostitution and/or sex work
  • 19% stating no affiliation
  • 12% from NGOs
  • 10% identifying as ‘other’
  • 6% from the higher education/academic sector
  • 5% from police
  • 1% from the statutory health sector
  • 1% from the statutory criminal justice sector[NM1] 


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