Sex Work Regulations in Germany

Prostitutes Protection Act: Federal Statistical Office Releases 2018 Data

Tweet by Deutsche Aidshilfe of May 16, 2019

Tweet not included in original text. See note below.

Roughly 32,800 prostitutes registered with authorities at the end of 2018

At the end of 2018, roughly 32,800 prostitutes* were validly registered with the authorities in accordance with the Prostitutes Protection Law (ProstSchG). As the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis) further reports, 1,600 prostitution businesses had been granted permits or provisional permits under the law, which entered into force on July 1, 2017. These results are partly based on administrative structures that are still being set up. This limits the data’s informational value.

Nearly one fifth of all registered prostitutes possess German citizenship

Of the 32,800 registered prostitutes, 25,000 (76%) were 21 to 44 years old. 5,700 (17%) were aged 45 or older, and 2,000 (6%) were between 18 and 20 years old. 6,200 prostitutes (19%) possessed German citizenship. The three most common foreign nationalities of the prostitutes were Romanian with 11,400 (35% of all registered prostitutes), Bulgarian with 3,200 (10%) and Hungarian with 2,400 (7%).

Prostitutes with valid registrations 2018 (Source Destatis)

By the end of 2018, 1,600 prostitution businesses were in operation with permits or provisional permits under the ProstSchG. 1,530 (96%) of the registered prostitution businesses were prostitution sites (Prostitutionsstätten, e.g. brothels). Prostitution agencies, vehicles and events accounted for a combined number of 70 permits (4%).

Notes on the data’s informational value – Administrative structures partly still being set up

The data under the ProstSchG is based on information of the relevant authorities and related administrative procedures. Under the law, prostitutes are subject to mandatory registration and prostitution businesses to statutory permission requirements. This statistic was first compiled in 2017. However, in some counties or municipalities, it was not yet possible to register as being engaged in prostitution or obtain a permit for a prostitution business on the reference day of December 31, 2017. Thus, 7,000 prostitutes nationwide had validly registered with the authorities by the end of 2017. The number of prostitution businesses holding a permit was 1,350. The reporting year 2018 marked the first year during which administrative procedures of all federal states were recorded. Nevertheless, at the end of 2018, the statistic is partly based on administrative structures that are still being set up. This limits the data’s informational value. Since the statistic represents administrative procedures pursuant to the ProstSchG, even subsequent data collections cannot include any information about businesses or prostitutes operating without registrations.


Source: Federal Statistical Office (Destatis) “Press Release No. 451 of November 26, 2019”
German version | Abridged English version

Translation by Matthias Lehmann, co-founder of SWAT – Sex Workers + Allies Translate.

SWAT Logo © Helen Chan for SWAT

“The aim of SWAT is not only to provide sex workers and allies with a network to enable sex work knowledge sharing across as cultural and language barriers, but also to reward contributors for their work whenever possible.”

Please click here for information about SWAT in 18 languages. Please contact SWAT via email if you would like to contribute your skills. You are also invited to join the SWAT Facebook group.

Every effort has been made to translate this press release verbatim. Therefore, the above text uses the term “prostitute” instead of “sex worker.” The tweet by the German AIDS Service Organisation (Deutsche Aidshilfe) did not appear in the original text. It refers to a report from May 2019 [German version] by the Ministry for Regional Identity, Communities and Local Government, Building and Gender Equality of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state, where less than a quarter of the estimated number of sex workers have registered.

According to the report, “It is to be feared that many prostitutes have retreated into the dark field of prostitution, where they are difficult to reach for authorities and counseling institutions. … There are reasonable doubts as to whether the law, in practice, can ever live up to its original idea of protection.” In its conclusion, the state’s government admit, “There is now a greater risk of slipping into poverty or illegality, losing a job and/or having personal data protection issues. The goal of protecting all sex workers from exploitative structures was not achieved by the introduction of the ProstSchG.”

This translation is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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