Every once in a while there are complaints in the UK about government-funded employment centres that permit advertisements for sex-related jobs. The agency in charge, Jobcentre Plus, provides resources to help unemployed people find work by consulting Jobcentre’s computer system or telephoning their offices or by looking at a website from home. Jobcentres also provide information about training opportunities.
A government report found that of ‘over 2.26 million vacancies advertised last year, 351 or around 0.015% of vacancies carried by Jobcentre Plus were in the adult entertainment industry.’ Some people are horrified that even this tiny proportion of possible jobs would be advertised. Adverts for such jobs used to be disqualified, but that policy was found to be discriminatory towards some employers. Ann Summers, for example, is a chain of mainstream shops selling sexy clothing and toys. Their adverts were not supposed to be included in Jobcentres before a High Court ruling lifted the ban in 2003.
Since no one is forced to apply for any job, it seems harmless to allow the advertisements to exist, although, of course, some people feel offended by the sight of them. The bigger problem is that some who’ve gotten the jobs later report that they were pressured to provide sexual services to customers – a reality not mentioned in the original advert. What jobs are we talking about?
Adult entertainment vacancies advertised by Jobcentre Plus between August 1, 2007, and July 31, 2008: Figures from government report and consultation
- Party planner (adult products) 68 vacancies
- Retail (adult products) 58
- Lap dancing club bar staff, managers 54
- Dancers, eg lap, pole, table, erotic 44
- Adult chat line operators and supervisors 30
- Models including lingerie and nude 28
- Warehouse 20
- Escorts 12
- Masseuses 8
- Topless TV channel staff 8
- Webcam operators 7
- Topless/semi-nude bar staff 3
- Others including semi-nude butler, nude cleaner, kissogram 11
The report says that 5514 people applied for 351 adult-entertainment-industry vacancies advertised, an average of just under 16 applicants for each vacancy. The report breaks these figures down by sex: 59.1% of applicants were male and 40.9% were female. 64% identified as white, 18% as disabled. Applicants ranged from 18 to 61+ years old, with the largest group, 45%, being aged 21-30.
Some of the jobs listed above could, obviously, turn into prostitution, but many of them simply involve dealing with sexual language, products and clothing. Since many people feel comfortable with those, it seems drastic to exclude them from advertised jobs. And I know it’s awful to be pressured to provide sex at your workplace, but such pressure occurs in all sorts of jobs that have nothing to do with the sex industry. If regulations prohibiting sexual harassment cover work as a secretary, cashier or nanny, they must cover legal jobs advertised in Jobcentres.
That is to say, the reaction to these cases of pressure is overblown. Given the deteriorating economy, removing announcements of vacancies from places where people go to look for work seems counter-productive. People who don’t want the jobs presumably just skip over them. Existing legislation should cover abuses in the workplace. I have one doubt, though: Are all the advertisements indeed ‘legal’? That is, escort agencies are technically not legal in the UK, so how are they able to advertise in Jobcentres? Who knows the answer to this? There might be a distinction here between legal jobs and legal employers.
I commented in December on a report that UK directory-enquiries showed an increase in interest in telephone numbers for some sex businesses. I think we need to confront the fact that many, many people do not share the current wave of horror about the sex industry. It may not be a Good Thing that sexual jobs are on the increase, but it is not a Bad Thing, either.