Prostitution in Southeast Asia has burgeoned so rapidly that it is now one of the region's major employers and mon-ey-earners, according to a new U.N. report.
Revenue from prostitution accounts for 2 percent to 14 percent of gross domestic product in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand, the International Labor Organization said in a 232-page report released Wednesday.Commercial sex is crucial to the livelihoods of millions of workers beyond prostitutes themselves and brings billions of dollars into each nation, it said.
Despite the region's current economic woes, demand may rise as changing currency values "make sex tourism an even cheaper thrill for customers from other regions," the report said.
Child prostitution in particular could grow as poverty and unemployment caused by the crisis strain family incomes and force children onto the streets.
The report recommends that governments draw up strategies to reduce adult prostitution and keep children from getting involved.
The report, titled The Sex Sector, is based on detailed studies of prostitution and commercial sex in the four countries.
In Thailand, 200,000 to 300,000 female sex workers in cities and towns send about $300 million a year to families in the countryside, "a sum that in most cases exceeds the budgets of government-funded development programs," the report said.
From 1993 to 1995, prostitution in Thailand yielded an annual income between $22.5 billion and $27 billion, it said.
In Indonesia, the sex industry takes in between $1.2 billion and $3.3 billion per year, representing between 0.8 and 2.4 percent of the gross domestic product.
In the countries studied, sex work provided significantly higher earnings than other forms of unskilled labor.