Briefing Paper: Economic Empowerment for Sex Workers


The criminalisation of sex work creates a range of barriers for sex workers when it comes to accessing their economic rights. Sex workers face overlapping and mutually reinforcing risks, such as social marginalisation, violence and poor health, which restrict the ability of sex workers to improve their living and working conditions and to achieve economic security. Furthermore, sex workers commonly report a lack of access to bank accounts, saving schemes, loans and legal forms of credit, insurance, pensions, and other basic employment benefits.

Many economic empowerment programmes for sex workers focus on ‘rehabilitation’ rather than fostering economic security, failing to meaningfully involve sex workers in their design and ignoring calls for quality and rights-based programming. At the same time, successful sex worker-led programmes are often overlooked, underfunded and rarely considered for scale-up and roll-out.

This briefing paper examines the impact of criminalisation on economic empowerment and documents existing programmes for and by sex workers, identifying good practices and key recommendations.

You can download this briefing paper above in English, and it is also available in French, Russian, Spanish and Chinese. A Community Guide is also available.

An infographic summarising this paper is also available.