Based on the results of the First Pan India Survey of Female Sex Workers (n=3000), this paper positions sex work within the broader spectrum of informal labour markets that women engage with in India.
It puts forth an important dimension missing so far in sex work studies in India – of sex workers with prior or simultaneous labour market work experience. Informal labour markets act as important sites/junctures linking poverty with sex work. For a substantial proportion of respondents, sex work was not their first experience of paid work. In the face of poverty and an early quest for livelihoods, they were pushed into informal labour activities, characterised by low, sticky wages and imminent possibilities of abuse. Placed in this context, their later entry into sex work emerges with a strong economic rationale and agency, as a deliberate, calculated choice offering higher incomes.