The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has paid cash incentives of over £2,000 to lap-dancing bars and similar establishments to hire young unemployed people aged 18-24 as part of its Youth Contract scheme.
Strip clubs and massage parlours that offer full-time jobs to young people for at least 26 weeks can claim up to £2,275 – so long as the young person is neither a "performer" nor "performing sexual acts".
Labour MP Fiona Mactaggart, who unearthed details of the payments and has now raised the matter in Parliament, has demanded to know how many people employed in such establishments go on to become sex workers.
She claims to have met women who started out working in cloakrooms who went on to become prostitutes. In a Sunday Times interview she said: "I do not think parents would welcome this government-sponsored recruitment into the sex industry."
The DWP says young people are only guided towards working in sex establishments if they specifically ask. Since 2012 jobs with a sexual purpose have been banned from government websites, though "ancillary" jobs within such establishments are still available.
A recent DWP document listed jobs within the adult entertainment industry where employers can receive government subsidies to employ the young unemployed:
- those involved in the sale, manufacture, distribution and display of sex related products;
- auxiliary workers in lap/pole dancing clubs – e.g. bar staff, door staff, receptionists or cleaners;
- auxiliary workers in strip clubs – e.g. bar staff, door staff, receptionists or cleaners;
- auxiliary workers in saunas/massage parlours e.g. bar staff, door staff, receptionists or clearers;
- glamour mode photographers;
- web-cam operators;
- TV camera operators, sound technicians, producers/directors for adult channels on digital TV;
- TV camera operators, sound technicians, producers/directors for pornographic films.
A DWP spokesman said: "This Government took action to ensure jobs in the adult industry which might exploit jobseekers were not advertised through Jobcentre Plus. We also ensured that to be eligible for our schemes jobs must not exploit vulnerable jobseekers."
However, ads of a more sinister nature do sometimes slip through the net. In December 2013, an ad for a girl to become a hooker briefly appeared on the Universal Jobmatch area of the Direct Gov website:
"Female worker wanted to go out with guys maybe for evening or have full on sex. This would be better if you was (sic) single and be able to work at your own pace. Looks and race unimportant. You will need a mobile phone. No experience necessary."