On the murder rate for prostitutes


No comprehensive figure is available, but based on informal reporting through her own networks, Kinnell suggests that 134 sex workers, including a small number of transsexuals, are known or believed to have been killed since 1990.

And there are thought to be about 80,000 in the trade.

Total adult population is something like 50 million (close enough for this sort of thing) and annual murder rate is about 800 isn\’t it?

So we\’ve 16,000 murders over that same 20 year period.

320 murders per million over a 20 year times span. That gives us 1.6 per 100,000 per year which isn\’t far off the 1.7 actually recorded. Hurrah, Timmy can remember rough magnitudes of the murder rate!

If we\’ve 134 murders of sex workers over 20 years and a population of 80,000, so, multiply by 1.25 and divide by 20 to give us the annual rate per 100,000…..8.4 per hundred thousand. That makes sex work about as dangerous (looking solely at the murder rate) as Lithuania. Indeed, a girl coming in from Russia or Brazil (both not unusual sources) is lowering her chance of being murdered by moving from the general population in those countries to the sex trade in the UK.

I\’ve been looking for tables of the annual death rate for other occupations (trawlermen, forestry workers etc) and cannot seem to find them. If anyone knows where they are so we can compare them then do let us all know. I can find PMRs but that\’s not the same thing at all, or at least we can\’t directly compare them to the rate per 100,000 per year.

BTW, this isn\’t to try and say that the life of a prostitute is worth less, nor to say that they deserved it or anything. Just, rather, to try and put these reported rates into some sort of proportion. Four to five times the rate in the general population, lower than the rate in many other countries.

And no, of course, comparing the murder rate with the crude death rate of other occupations isn\’t right either (for there are many other things one might die of that are occupationally related than murder) but again, it would be interesting to see what the death rate, by, say, accident, is for those known to be high risk male occupations like deep sea fishing, fireman, etc. Anyone got them?


A 2009 study by the School of Medicine at Swansea University claimed commercial fishing is Britain\’s most hazardous occupation. The study reported a fatal accident rate of 102 per 100,000 fishermen, which is more than 100 times riskier than the average British worker. By comparison the next most hazardous rate was for dockers at 28 per 100,000, with roofers and scaffolders at about 12 per 100,000.

Prostitution, over ten times safer than commercial fishing, three times safer than being a docker and safer even than roofing or scaffolding.

But then as the late, great Douglas Adams pointed out, the one thing a human being cannot afford to have is a sense of proportion.

18 thoughts on “On the murder rate for prostitutes”

  1. I seem to recall reading, I think in an article by Ross Clarke, that lorry driving has a comparatively high death rate.

    In my own field, barristering, there is I believe a comparatively high suicide rate. The slaughter of Mark Saunders of course put us up there with Brazilian electricians and middle-aged progresses in terms of the risk we face from police.

    Accordingly my valet is under strict instructions not to leave me alone with the razor blades.

  2. The annual death rate for US Presidents by assassination is 4 deaths in 122 yrs times 100,000 thus giving about 3200 per 100,000per year. The laws of small numbers should be applied I know, but still the job seems to be a lot worse than prostitution…

  3. “That makes sex work about as dangerous (looking solely at the murder rate) as Lithuania. Indeed, a girl coming in from Russia or Brazil (both not unusual sources) is lowering her chance of being murdered by moving from the general population in those countries to the sex trade in the UK.”

    Well the murder rate for women in Lithuania, Russia or Brazil is going to be a lot less than the general rate. I’d be surprised if there are many countries where the female murder rate is as high as 8 per 100 000.

  4. So that means a Polish man coming to the UK to work on a farm is in more danger than a Polish woman coming here and ending up in prostitution.

  5. However I think the unlawful killing rate among women is considerably lower (they don’t get into bar fights). I don’t know but I wouldn’t be surprised at half the overall rate. Also prostitures who get killed not “in the line of work” would presumably be part of the general figures not the prostitute estimate.

  6. The death rate for gardeners run over by their own lawnmowers is, apparently, three per year. I’ve no idea how many gardeners there are, and I can’t remember how this fascinating factoid lodged in my head. Happy Christmas to all.

  7. And if the bloody puritans would stop telling everybody to despise prostitutes, and making them work outside the law, and so on, it would be a lot lower. There’s a reason the serial prostitute killer was a Victorian invention.

  8. Depends, Tim, on on the method of prostitution. Obviously, an ‘escort’ whose agency does basic checks on her clients is at much less risk than a street-walker.

  9. For many years the two most dangerous trades were fishermen and quarrymen. Some people would threaten to take a swipe at you if you mentioned that during the miners’ strikes.

  10. There’s a long-running show on Discovery Channel called The Deadliest Catch, about several crews of Alaskan crab fishermen. They claim it’s the most dangerous job in the world. Lumberjacks historically had some fairly grim statistics associated with their work but I think the mechanisation of the trade has gone a long way to mitigate that in recent years (which is a general trend, and a good thing – no-one cares f a robot gets destroyed in a mining accident, unless you’re Bender from Futurama.) Then there’s anomalous things like combat troops in wartime. RAF Bomber Command, for example. Aircrew: dead man walking. Groundcrew: not much more likely to cop it than any Tom, Dick or Harry. Or my Dad, who served 1941-46 in one of those bits of the Empire the Jerries never got round to playing silly buggers with, while his best mate got killed at Arnhem. They were both soldiers, and they were both at war. One had a double-decker bus full of offspring and the other got it in the neck at 22. So even in the days of deadly lumberjackery, you had to draw a distinction between the guy in the checked shirt with a big axe and the guy in the poplin shirt in Accounts Receivable up at the camp.

    Comparative stats are a lot of fun, which is why Nationmaster can run away with your afternoon. One of the most illuminating (and alarming) things is the relative risk of being murdered in Iraq and Mexico. Mexico is now essentially a failed state adjacent to the world’s only superpower, and other than lurid headlines about headless bodies being found etc. no-one seems to give a shit. I wouldn’t mind betting the sex worker stats there are absolutely hair-raising.

  11. Paul: which goes very well with Ian’s point. The only reason streetwalking represents a significant part of the prostitution market is because brothels are illegal.

    JM: interesting point, and it works both ways: 18-24s and 25-34s are the most likely age groups to be murdered, while obviously older groups are far more likely to die of natural causes.

  12. Not long ago, there were figures published showing that neither Alaskan crab fishing nor lumberjacking were anywhere near the most
    dangerous job in America.

    The most dangerous job (by far): pizza delivery!

  13. “The only reason streetwalking represents a significant part of the prostitution market is because brothels are illegal.”

    Sounds good but in practice a fallacy. Try Spain. Brothels not only legal but ubiquitous, street girls so prolific there’s just been a law enacted in this province to deter them.

  14. Off topic question:
    I have read that the murder rate in Great Britain is keep low by filing what are really murders in other categories of the crime statistics.
    Any thoughts on that issue?

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