Governments across the European Union are finally waking up to the fact that from September they are expected to follow EU orders to include earnings from prostitution and illegal-drug dealing in their national statistics.
Statisticians at France’s national data agency, speaking for the French government, say they will refuse the order. They say they will not calculate the value of prostitution because it is controlled by trafficking illegal immigrants and “is not a voluntary commercial activity.” They will also refuse to include most estimates for illegal drug use because when there is dependency the drug user “does not consent freely to the exchange.”
However, officials in Spain and Belgium have agreed to make the change.
Germany, Hungary, Austria and Greece already include prostitution but not drugs in their national accounts, while the Netherlands, which has decriminalised many drugs, already counts sales from marijuana and other recreational drugs in their economic output.
Britain said last month that it would comply with the EU decision and include prostitution and illegal drugs in its figures for the first time, a move that will give an apparent £10bn lift to the British economy in 2009 figures, with prostitution worth £5.3bn and illegal drugs £4.4bn.
The change in national accounts follows an EU decision last December that all member states must adopt the 2010 version of the European System of Accounts by September 2014.
The change is meant to make all the member states’ economic data comparable for purposes of calculating the EU budget.
The European System of Accounts is a 688-page document that has the introduced the change on figures on illegal drugs in a single paragraph tucked between information on uncompensated seizure of assets and changes in asset records:
“Illegal economic actions shall be considered as transactions when all units involved enter the actions by mutual agreement. Thus, purchases, sales or barters of illegal drugs or stolen property are transactions, while theft is not.”
The eurocrat-accountants cover prostitution under a section on “the non-observed economy” with the phrase, “hidden and underground activities where the transactions themselves are not against the law, but are unreported to avoid official scrutiny.”
On the list of “classification of individual consumption by purpose,” prostitution comes between personal care and personal effects.
The French government, through the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE), has indicated it will not comply with the EU order on prostitution or drug trafficking, because it does not agree that these exchanges occur by “mutual agreement,” as indicated in the European System of Accounts. INSEE maintains that prostitutes and drug users are not operating of their own consent.
Eric Dubois, a director at INSEE, told Le Monde that in drug use “there is a dependency and the person who takes drugs does not consent freely to the exchange.”
He said street prostitution is the result of “mafia networks and trafficking illegal immigrants. Prostitution is not a voluntary commercial activity.”
France however will include some estimate on the value of illegal drugs in their accounts.