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Few initiatives specifically targeting young people who have sex for compensation in the Nordic countries


Young people who have sex for compensation are a vulnerable, particularly preyed-on group, but in the Nordic countries few specifically targeted social initiatives are offered to this group. This is shown in a new report entitled Young People, Vulnerabilities and Prostitution/Sex for Compensation in the Nordic Countries. Other main findings are that more young men than women report experience of sex for compensation and that the proportion of young LGBTI people who report experiencing it is higher than the proportion of young people who do not identify as LGBTI who report such experiences.

The Young People, Vulnerabilities and Prostitution/Sex for Compensation in the Nordic Countries report focuses specifically on young people’s experiences of sex for compensation and aimed to collect, analyse and problematize knowledge about this group in the Nordic countries. The study had three aims. The first was to present existing knowledge about young people’s experiences of sex for compensation and to critically discuss the methods applied in the production of this knowledge. In addition, the study aimed to describe and analyse social initiatives in relation to young people who have sex for compensation, and analyse the application of the legislation relevant to this group.

It is the first time that knowledge about young people who have sex for compensation has been compiled and spotlighted in all the Nordic countries. The study’s findings and the overall picture that the report gives are an important source of knowledge for many different actors in the Nordic countries, according to Charlotta Holmström, sociologist and lead researcher for the study.

“It is vital knowledge for all actors who encounter young people in their work – social work, healthcare, police force, the legal system and schools – but also for actors who work with policy in these areas.”

More knowledge needed
in order to offer adequate support

NIKK, Nordic Information on Gender, tasked by the Nordic Council of Ministers, has compiled the report. The study presents national reports from the five Nordic countries, written by researchers in the field in each country. The reports are based on various types of material – some primarily based on previous research and reports, and others on empirical material collected in interviews with professionals working in the field.

The findings show overall that research into young people who have sex for compensation in the Nordic countries is relatively limited. Few social initiatives are offered specifically to young people who have sex for compensation. The reports also show that young people’s experiences of sex for compensation differ from those of older people, which is a strong motivation for targeted initiatives. Generally speaking, there is a need for more knowledge about young people in the Nordic countries who have sex for compensation in order to be able to deal with the problem and give young people in this situation adequate help and support.

Principal findings of the Young People, Vulnerabilities and Prostitution/Sex for Compensation in the Nordic Countries report

Young men and LGBTI people are more often affected
The review of previous research in the report shows that more young men than young women report having experienced sex for compensation. The proportion of young LGBTI people who report experiencing sex for compensation is higher than the proportion of young people who do not identify as LGBTI who report such experiences. Professionals in the field also report that they often encounter young adult migrants. This group is not represented in the literature at all.

Few social initiatives specifically targeting young people who have sex for compensation

Few social initiatives are offered specifically to young people who have sex for compensation. At the same time, previous research shows that young people who have sex for compensation state more frequently that they have experience of drug use and alcohol consumption, various kinds of abuse, self-harm behaviours and mental illness.

The importance of terminology

In all the national reports, social workers and other professionals in the field stressed the importance of the terminology used to describe young people’s experiences of sex for compensation in relation to how successful professionals were in reaching young people in need of help and being able to offer adequate support. Many of the social support professionals interviewed stated that the term ‘prostitution’ makes it more difficult to establish a relationship of trust with individuals who need support and that it can lead to increased stigmatization.

No analysis of structural factors

An individual perspective has largely been applied in previous research and other studies. The individual perspective increases the risk that the individual professional will be moralising in their communications with young people. Structural factors are described and analysed to a much smaller degree. It may therefore be concluded that there are no in-depth analyses of the significance of structural factors.

The state of knowledge – limited knowledge about young people who have sex for compensation

A review of previous research and other literature revealed that knowledge about young people in the Nordic countries who have sex for compensation is limited and that the scope and type of knowledge about young people who have sex for compensation varies in the different Nordic countries.

Varying legislation in the Nordic countries

The legislation on the sale and purchase of sexual services in the Nordic countries varies quite a lot. However, buying sexual services from minors is a criminal offence in all the Nordic countries. Other law also affects young people who have sex for compensation. However, the Acts that apply and the way in which they are implemented depend largely on whether the person who has sex for compensation is over 18 or under 18.

Susanna Young Håkansson

For more information and press inquiries, please contact:
Jenny Pentler
Project Coordinator, NIKK


New assignments for NIKK on sexual harassment, working life in the future and LGBTI issues in the Nordic region


NIKK has been assigned three new projects, all beginning in 2019. These assignments focus on mapping research and knowledge about sexual harassment in working life, sustainability and gender equality in the high-tech working life of the future, and mapping and analysing the LGBTI field in the Nordic region. The projects will contribute towards increased knowledge and quality within Nordic gender equality work in each individual area.

Sustainability and gender equality in the high-tech working life of the future

The future labour market will be digitalised, robotised and automated, resulting in certain jobs disappearing and a growing demand for employment in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) sector. In view of the fact that the labour market is divided up by gender and that the proportion of women within this sector is low, this may have long-term implications in terms of gender equality in the Nordic labour market. The Nordic Council of Ministers’ working life, gender equality, education and research sectors and the Nordic cooperation programme Generation 2030 have therefore tasked NIKK with producing a knowledge base. This will involve investigating how the Nordic nations are working to achieve a better gender balance in education and professions as demanded within the natural sciences and technology, and how this is expected to contribute towards sustainability and gender equality in future labour markets.

The assignment will result in:

  • A Nordic overview of existing research in connection with gender-related study choices within the STEM sector
  • An inventorying of concrete initiatives within the Nordic region to reduce the gender imbalance within STEM
  • An analysis of inventoried initiatives
  • An outlook of how a selection of other countries outside the Nordic region promote a gender balance within STEM

Project period: June 2019 to December 2020
Project budget: DKK 800,000


Mapping and analysis of the LGBTI field in the Nordic region

New formal Nordic cooperation on equal treatment and rights for LGBTI individuals began in 2020. In order to ensure that this cooperation is reliable, effective and lasting, NIKK has been tasked by the Nordic Council of Ministers with mapping and analysing the LGBTI field.

The assignment will result in:

  • Mapping that highlights national conditions regarding legislation and administrative structure within the LGBTI field, the themes and initiative areas in focus at national level, and inspiration models for Nordic cooperation.
  • A consultation process in which organisations within civil society, agencies and other players working for the equal rights of LGBTI individuals in the Nordic region will be given the opportunity to contribute towards identifying the themes and initiative areas that should be prioritised by Nordic cooperation within the LGBTI field.
  • Analysis and recommendations based on this mapping and consultation. These recommendations should be aimed at the Nordic Ministers for Gender Equality, and should indicate the themes and initiative areas, initiatives and partners for the LGBTI field.

The Nordic Ministers for Gender Equality shall discuss the recommendations and then adopt the strategic initiative areas that bring the greatest possible Nordic benefit within the LGBTI field. The overall objective, initiative areas and subsidiary goals shall subsequently be compiled in a supplement to the Nordic Co-operation Programme on Gender Equality 2019-2022.

Project period: September 2019 to May 2020
Project budget: DKK 500,000


Nordic knowledge boost on sexual harassment: a pilot study

Through its gender equality cooperation, the Nordic Council of Ministers has initiated a research-based pilot study to highlight gaps in knowledge on sexual harassment in working life, and to draw up proposals on the action to be taken. NIKK has been tasked with carrying out the pilot study, to be completed in March 2020. The Nordic Ministers for Gender Equality have also decided to fund a Nordic research initiative which, based on the proposals from the pilot study, will contribute towards increasing knowledge of sexual harassment in working life and will form the basis for future initiatives to combat sexual harassment. There is an obvious need within the Nordic region for greater knowledge about gender-based vulnerability in working life and sustainable ways to tackle the problem. Investigations and mappings have previously been initiated in the individual countries, but there is no joint Nordic overview.

The assignment will result in:

  • Research-based mapping of recently completed and ongoing research projects, mappings and other relevant studies within the Nordic region related to gender-based vulnerability in the labour market.
  • A summary of the comparative Nordic need for knowledge that has emerged within the framework of Nordic cooperation work on #MeToo issues.
  • A presentation of how a three-year research programme should be structured. Thematic content, funding, advertising formats and follow-up and evaluation are included in the assignment.

Project period: September 2019 to March 2020
Project budget: DKK 500,000

Latest updated 15 November 2019