Stigma and Labour Market Outcomes: Sex Work and Domestic Work in India

Hui, Neha, and Uma S. Kambhampati. 2020. ‘Stigma and Labour Market Outcomes: Sex Work and Domestic Work in India’. The Journal of Development Studies 56 (1): 112–28.

In this paper, we examine whether the earnings of sex workers in India are significantly different from those in domestic work, a trade that is also gendered in nature and can be done with similarly low levels of training and education. We analyse this using data collected during fieldwork in the cities of Kolkata and Delhi in India. Our results confirm that there is a significant difference in wages between the two groups of workers. We consider the extent to which the stigma attached to sex work contributes to the higher wages in this occupation relative to domestic work. To do this, we control for endogeneity caused by selection on unobservables. We find that stigma is a significant contributory factor to the wage differential. We also preliminarily consider an alternate explanation – that of violence in the trade. We find that the experience of violence in the trade does not affect the take home earnings of the individuals.

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