Sex and drugs worth $16.7 billion to UK economy, statisticians say

Thu May 29, 2014 12:00pm EDT
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By David Milliken

LONDON (Reuters) - They already know what rock'n'roll is worth, so now Britain's statisticians are getting to grips with sex and drugs in a bid to give a broader view of the size of the economy.

The fruit of their research is that sales of illegal drugs and sexual services add around 10 billion pounds ($16.7 billion) to Britain's economic activity each year, making up just under 1 percent of total economic output.

Britain's Office for National Statistics published the figures on Thursday alongside a detailed account of its methods, as it prepares to move Britain's public accounts to a new European Union model in September.

The changes cover far more than black-market activities, and in total are likely to add around 4 to 5 percent to the level of gross domestic product as new businesses are added to the economy and the contribution of old ones reviewed, the ONS said.

Finding accurate estimates of Britons' consumption of drugs and prostitution has proven the trickiest part of the job.

"The estimates are based on data of variable quality, with the estimates of illegal drugs activity markedly stronger than those of prostitution, but both definitely weaker than the estimates of legal activity," the ONS said.

Prostitution is legal in Britain, but brothels, pimps and advertising sex are not, making estimating the number of prostitutes especially complicated.

The ONS said it believed there were at least 58,000 prostitutes in Britain in 2004 - based on a charity's estimate of the number of prostitutes in London - and that numbers since then had increased in line with demand, which it based on the growing number of British men aged over 16.   Continued...

Cocaine from Britain's largest ever cocaine seizure is displayed by UK Border Agency staff in London August 3, 2011.   REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth