The Market for Migrant Domestic and Sex Workers

July 2002 – December 2006
Overview Theory Methods Partners Findings Outputs
Back to Projects


This project examined empirical, theoretical and policy questions about domestic work, commercial sex and trafficking by investigating the market for migrant labour (including the labour of those aged under 18) in these sectors, and tracing connections between this demand and socially tolerated attitudes towards gender, race/ethnicity, age and sexuality. Paid domestic in private households and the commercial sex trade are both largely unregulated spheres of economic activity relying on a predominantly female workforce. Working conditions are often very poor, and workers are at risk of various forms of abuse and violence. In Europe they are both important sectors of employment for migrant women, and the markets have been strongly affected by global economic and social changes.

This project built on pilot research published by the International Organization for Migration to produce and analyse quantitative and qualitative data on prostitute users, employers of domestic workers and third party beneficiaries in six countries (Sweden, Italy, Thailand, India, Barcelona and London), supplemented with ethnographic research on the market for migrant sex and domestic workers in Tenerife. Funding was obtained from the ESRC to extend and develop this pilot work through matching and supplementary research in the UK and Spain, and more rigorous and detailed analysis of the data generated by the pilot study and the follow-on research.

Principal Investigator

Bridget Anderson, Julia O’Connell Davidson (University of Nottingham)


Caitlin Farrow (University of Nottingham), Inka Stock (University of Oxford), Patrizia Testai (University of Nottingham)


Economic and Social Research Council