Alex Massie

New Zealand Hookers

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Meanwhile, there's happier news from New Zealand. Actually, there quite often is. Despite its sleepy reputation, New Zealand is an interesting, even innovative place. Though this is more Will Wilkinson's bailiwick than mine, NZ always scores well in measurements of global happiness and quality of life surveys. And, in part, I suppose, because of its isolated location, it's been forced to take a flexible approach to public policy. Thus, New Zealand scrapped agricultural subsidies and implemented a school choice programme vastly more adventurous than anything attempted in the UK, let alone Scotland.

Now, on the social front, comes interesting news about the consequences of decriminalising prostitution (which is more Kerry Howley's domain than mine). According to a new report there's been no significant increase in the number of sex workers since decrominalisation in 2003. While prostitution might not be many people's idea of an ideal profession and clearly changing the trade's legal status cannot wash away all the problems that may be associated with it, it's also evident that conditions for prostitutes have improved since decriminalisation.

The New Zealand Herald reports that 93% of prostitutes cite "money as the reason for getting into and staying in the sex industry" and that:

"The most significant barriers to exiting [prostitution] are loss of income, reluctance to lose the flexible working hours available in the sex industry and the camaraderie and sense of belonging that some sex workers describe."

The committee said a Christchurch School of Medicine survey found that more than 90 per cent felt they had legal rights under the act.

More than 60 per cent felt they were more able to refuse to provide commercial sexual services to a particular client since the enactment of the law.

Before the act, the illicit status of the industry meant workers were open to coercion and exploitation by managers, pimps and clients. Research indicated there had been "some improvement" in employment conditions "but this is by no means universal".

Generally, brothels that had treated their workers fairly before the act continued to do so, while those that did not, continued to have unfair management practices, it said.

"The committee recommends that the sex industry, with the help of the Department of Labour and others, moves towards written, best-practice employment contracts ... becoming standard for sex workers working in brothels."

Other findings included that the majority of sex workers felt the act could do little about violence that occurred, although a significant majority felt there had been an improvement since the passing of the act.

So, in summary: sensible, sane, humane policy actually works!

Full report here.

[Hat-tip: Tyler Cowen]

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

Topics in this articleSociety