Global economic crisis hits German sex industry

Mon Apr 20, 2009 10:06pm EDT
 
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By Erik Kirschbaum

BERLIN (Reuters) - It did not take long for the world financial crisis to affect the world's oldest profession in Germany.

In one of the few countries where prostitution is legal, and unusually transparent, the industry has responded with an economic stimulus package of its own: modern marketing tools, rebates and gimmicks to boost falling demand.

Some brothels have cut prices or added free promotions while others have introduced all-inclusive flat-rate fees. Free shuttle buses, discounts for seniors and taxi drivers, as well as "day passes" are among marketing strategies designed to keep business going.

"Times are tough for us too," said Karin Ahrens, who manages the "Yes, Sir" brothel in Hanover. She told Reuters revenue had dropped by 30 percent at her establishment while turnover had fallen by as much as 50 percent at other clubs.

"We're definitely feeling the crisis. Clients are being tight with their money. They're afraid. You can't charge for the extras any more and there is pressure to cut prices. Everyone wants a deal. Special promotions are essential these days."

Germany has about 400,000 professional prostitutes. Official figures do not distinguish between the sexes and the number of male prostitutes is not known, but they account for a small fraction of the total and are treated the same under the law.

In 2002, new legislation allowed prostitutes to advertise and to enter into formal labor contracts. It opened the way for them to obtain health insurance, previously refused if they listed their true profession.

Annual revenues are about 14 billion euros ($18 billion), according to an estimate by the Verdi services union. Taxes on prostitution are an important source of income for some cities.   Continued...

 
<p>Romanian prostitutes pose in the brothel "Pussy Club" in Schoenefeld April 15, 2009. It did not take long for the world financial crisis to affect the world's oldest profession in Germany. In one of the few countries where prostitution is legal, and unusually transparent, the industry has responded with an economic stimulus package of its own: modern marketing tools, rebates and gimmicks to boost falling demand. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke</p>