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The Job Satisfaction of Female Sex Workers Working in Licensed Brothels in Victoria, Australia

Authors

  • Jade E. Bilardi MAppSocRes,

    Corresponding author
    1. Sexual Health Unit, Melbourne School of Population Health, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
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  • Amanda Miller MBBS (Hons),

    1. Melbourne Sexual Health Centre, Alfred Health, Melbourne, Australia
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  • Jane S. Hocking PhD,

    1. Centre for Women's Health, Gender and Society, Melbourne School of Population Health, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
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  • Louise Keogh PhD,

    1. Centre for Women's Health, Gender and Society, Melbourne School of Population Health, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
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  • Rosey Cummings MPH,

    1. Melbourne Sexual Health Centre, Alfred Health, Melbourne, Australia
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  • Marcus Y. Chen PhD,

    1. Sexual Health Unit, Melbourne School of Population Health, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
    2. Melbourne Sexual Health Centre, Alfred Health, Melbourne, Australia
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  • Catriona S. Bradshaw PhD,

    1. Melbourne Sexual Health Centre, Alfred Health, Melbourne, Australia
    2. Department of Epidemiology & Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia
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  • Christopher K. Fairley PhD

    1. Sexual Health Unit, Melbourne School of Population Health, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
    2. Melbourne Sexual Health Centre, Alfred Health, Melbourne, Australia
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Jade E. Bilardi, MAppSocRes, Sexual Health Unit, School of Population Health, The University of Melbourne, 580 Swanston Street, Carlton, Vic. 3053, Australia. Tel: +61 402724228; Fax: +61 3 93416290; E-mail: jbilardi@mshc.org.au; cfairley@mshc.org.au

ABSTRACT

Introduction.  Previous studies have examined sex workers' attitudes to work but not their levels of job satisfaction compared with other occupations.

Aim.  The job satisfaction levels and standards of living of sex workers in licensed brothels in Victoria were compared with Australian women.

Main Outcome Measures.  Responses to a questionnaire that included questions about sex work and their “most likely alternative job.” Survey data was compared with identical questions from the Households, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey.

Methods.  A structured survey was undertaken with sex workers in Victoria attending a a sexual health service.

Results.  Of the 112 sex workers who agreed to participate in the study, 85 (76%) completed the survey. The median years women had been working as sex workers was three (range 0.1–18). The main reasons women started sex work was because “they needed the money” (69%), were attracted to the flexible hours (44%) or had a particular goal in mind (43%). The two biggest concerns women had about sex work were their safety (65%) and the risk of sexually transmitted infections (65%). When compared with the median job satisfaction scores of Australian women working in sex workers' “most likely alternative jobs,” 50% of sex workers reported a higher median satisfaction score for sex work in relation to hours worked, 47% in relation to flexibility, 43% in relation to total pay, 26% in relation to job security, 19% in relation to the work itself, and 25% in relation to overall job satisfaction.

Conclusions.  Women reported that they primarily do sex work for financial gain although a significant minority prefer it to other work they would be likely to do. These results should be interpreted in the context that the presence of personality disorders that are common among sex workers were not measured in this study. Bilardi JE, Miller A, Hocking JS, Keogh L, Cummings R, Chen MY, Bradshaw CS, and Fairley CK. The job satisfaction of female sex workers working in licensed brothels in Victoria, Australia. J Sex Med 2011;8:116–122.

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