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Commercial Sex Workers in Southeast Asia

By: Sarah Troester

Commercial sex has become a major business in Asia, it has acquired many characteristics of an industry. It is highly organized, wages for work, factory-like atmosphere, anonymity and a complete alienation at the workplace.  According to reports from International Labor Organization, in spite of Asia’s economic crisis, the sex industry wont be slowing down because of the economic and social forces.  This industry wont even be affected in regions with high unemployment levels.

Generally, sex work is usually better paid than most of the option available to young, often uneducated women, despite the stigma and dangers with the work.  For many women, sex work is the only viable choice when experiencing poverty, unemployment, failed marriages or have family obligations.  Commercial sex works tend to be less time consuming than factory or unskilled labor.  For single mothers with children, the hours are more flexible than factory work.  Women also get paid better than they would for unskilled labor. Average monthly earnings in the middle range were estimated at around US$600 monthly and US$100 at the low end (“Sex Industry assuming massive proportions in Southeast Asia”, 2).  Commercial sex workers are not usually found in small towns or villages where they grew up. The young women leave the town or village for the city, to find their first-time job in the urban areas. The foundation for Women in Bangkok said that official policies promoting tourism and migration for employment, particular among women, encourage the growth of prostitution (“Prostitution a Major Industry in Southeast Asia”, 2).

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