The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) welcomes migrant sex worker research

On: 10 October 2018

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) welcomes the findings of new independent research on migrant sex workers in New Zealand.

The research was proactively commissioned by us to better understand issues within the sex industry, as part of work to combat migrant exploitation.

Research for the Migrant Sex Workers In New Zealand report was conducted by Dr Gillian Abel (University of Otago) and Dr Michael Roguski (Kaitiaki Research and Evaluation). They surveyed 11 migrant sex workers of varied nationalities, 9 stakeholders including brothel operators, sexual health specialists and representatives of the New Zealand Prostitutes’ Collective.

“This research is a good start towards developing an understanding of migrant sex workers in New Zealand. However, it is only the first step. It canvassed a small number of workers within the relatively short timeframe required,” says Immigration New Zealand (INZ) Assistant General Manager Compliance Peter Devoy.

“More work needs to be done to understand the most hidden and most vulnerable migrant sex workers in New Zealand, including the scope and scale of the population.

Temporary migrants, who breach their visa conditions by working in the New Zealand sex industry, are vulnerable to exploitation by unscrupulous employers and clients. They are less likely to be aware of their rights and entitlements than their New Zealand colleagues and are unlikely to come forward and complain.”

Tackling the exploitation of migrants is a priority for INZ. The sex industry is one part of our wider work to combat migrant exploitation.

While temporary migrants are unable to work in the sex industry, migrant workers have the same employment rights as all other workers in New Zealand.

Anyone being forced to work in the sex industry in New Zealand illegally can contact us on 0800 20 90 20 or, where their concerns will be handled in a safe environment. People can also contact CrimeStoppers anonymously through our website.

Guidance for employers and workers in the sex industry is available on our website.


On 1 September 2018, INZ announced a programme of work taking a proactive approach to better understanding issues within the sex industry as part of wider work on exploitation.

This work includes gathering information to better understand the particular challenges within this industry. It also includes educating the sex industry to ensure employers, facilitators of service and workers understand their rights and legal obligations.

As with other industries, there will continue to be regulatory activity in this industry.

INZ doesn’t grant either residence or temporary entry visas to a person who has provided or intends to provide commercial sexual services. This is in line with the Prostitution Reform Act, which states that only New Zealand citizens and residents can legally work in the sex industry.

INZ continues to undertake compliance work to identify and refuse entry to foreign sex workers seeking to enter New Zealand and address any complaints concerning the breaches of minimum employment standards, or the maltreatment or exploitation of foreign sex workers.

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