Migrant Sex Workers

Victoria’s sex workers come from a diverse range of backgrounds. Some sex workers are culturally and linguistically diverse, with the four most common languages spoken being Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean and Thai. Extensive interviews with 412 migrant sex workers were carried out in 2015 by the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC). The AIC is an independent organisation that gathers credible data relating to society and criminal justice. The AIC website describes the study as:

‘Surveying a large sample of migrant and non-migrant sex workers across a range of states and territories in Australia, the study has enabled an assessment to be made of the demographic profile, work conditions and access to services of migrant sex workers.’

migrant sex worker Australia Asia
migrant sex workers deserve protection under the law (Unsplash: Raychan)

The following key findings from this large-scale study1 relate to the migrant sex workers:

  • Median age was 30-34
  • 31% were educated to a bachelor degree level or higher
  • Two thirds reported speaking English well or very well (this figure includes migrants from English speaking countries)
  • 1% reported speaking no English at all
  • 49% were single
  • 55% had at least one child
  • 25% of the female interviewees were single mothers

You can read the full reports on Australian Institute of Criminology’s website:

Migrant Sex Worker Demographics Study

Migrant Sex Worker Report

migrant Sex Workers diverse sex workers Australia
migrant sex workers come from all continents (Unsplash: Omar Lopez)

Migrant Sex Workers and Law Reform

Sex Work Law Reform Victoria believes those in Australia on a visa with working rights should be able to choose the type of work they do. Migrant workers in the sex industry are best protected in a fully decriminalised environment.

  1. Lauren Renshaw, Jules Kim, Janelle Fawkes & Elena Jeffreys, Migrant Sex Workers in Australia, (2015) Australian Institute of Criminology

© Sex Work Law Reform Victoria 2020

Last updated: 25 February 2021