Thai Sex Workers Fuel Rural Economy

Coyote dancer on Walking Street

A recent article at Asian Correspondent dealing with ladyboy sex workers in Pattaya drew our attention to some interesting figures regarding prostitution in Thailand and the economic significance of sex work in the country.
According to Havocscope, an information platform and database for the global black market, there are 250,000 prostitutes in Thailand and the annual revenue from prostitution (that’s the money spent on prostitution each year) is an alleged 6.4 billion US dollars.
While we find the latter figure somewhat inflated, the estimated number of sex workers nationwide seems to be a very realistic assessment. We guess that some 20,000 prostitutes ply their trade only in Pattaya, and some 100,000 sex workers may cater only to foreign clients (“sex tourists”) nationwide
But don’t just think of Bangkok, Pattaya or Phuket and the foreign-oriented sex industry. The biggest market for sex workers in Thailand are Thai males – not Farangs.
When you look at prostitution in Thailand the focus isn’t really on beer bars and bar ladies as you know them from Pattaya but primarily on girls employed in entertainment venues catering to the male Thai market (karaoke bars, massage parlours) and “sideline” girls (that’s a kind of part-time freelance hookers promoting their services on the Internet). So yes, if you look at the big picture, 250,000 we think is a pretty realistic estimate for the total number of sex workers in the country.

But here comes the interesting part. In her piece on Thai trans sex workers published on Asian Correspondent’s Siam Voices blog, Julia Boccagno notes (unfortunately we can’t find the actual source):

According to Havocscope, sex workers in Thailand send an annual average of $300 million to family members who reside in more rural areas of Thailand. That’s more money raised than any form of government development project has contributed in the past.

300 million US dollars – that’s a seriously big chunk of money going every year from the epicenters of Thailand’s sex industry to villages and small towns mostly in the country’s northeastern region also known as Isaan.
You find that number inflated? Think again!
250,000 Thai sex workers nationwide send an average of 300 million US dollars back home to their families in the countryside every year – that’s just 1,200 US dollars per year or 100 dollars per month/person.
Now 3,500 Baht – that’s what you currently get for 100 dollars – sounds like a more realistic (and actually rather low) estimate for the amount of money not just bar girls in Pattaya send to family members in the provinces each month, doesn’t it? Multiplied by 250,000 that makes a surely impressive number though.
We think: Kudos to Thailand’s sex workers for their little appreciated impact on the country’s rural economic life!

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