Poor working conditions and work stress among Canadian sex workers

P Duff, J Sou, J Chapman, S Dobrer, M Braschel, S Goldenberg, K Shannon; Poor working conditions and work stress among Canadian sex workers , Occupational Medicine, Volume 67, Issue 7, 1 October 2017, Pages 515–521, https://doi.org/10.1093/occmed/kqx092

While sex work is often considered the world’s oldest profession, there remains a dearth of research on work stress among sex workers (SWs) in occupational health epidemiological literature. A better understanding of the drivers of work stress among SWs is needed to inform sex work policy, workplace models and standards.Aims

To examine the factors that influence work stress among SWs in Metro Vancouver.Methods

Analyses drew from a longitudinal cohort of SWs, known as An Evaluation of Sex Workers’ Health Access (AESHA) (2010–14). A modified standardized ‘work stress’ scale, multivariable linear regression with generalized estimating equations was used to longitudinally examine the factors associated with work stress.Results

In multivariable analysis, poor working conditions were associated with increased work stress and included workplace physical/sexual violence (β = 0.18; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.06, 0.29), displacement due to police (β = 0.26; 95% CI 0.14, 0.38), working in public spaces (β = 0.73; 95% CI 0.61, 0.84). Older (β = −0.02; 95% CI −0.03, −0.01) and Indigenous SWs experienced lower work stress (β = −0.25; 95% CI −0.43, −0.08), whereas non-injection (β = 0.32; 95% CI 0.14, 0.49) and injection drug users (β = 0.17; 95% CI 0.03, 0.31) had higher work stress.Conclusions

Vancouver-based SWs’ work stress was largely shaped by poor work conditions, such as violence, policing, lack of safe workspaces. There is a need to move away from criminalized approaches which shape unsafe work conditions and increase work stress for SWs. Policies that promote SWs’ access to the same occupational health, safety and human rights standards as workers in other labour sectors are also needed.

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