The study of economics, which was once called “the dismal science” by Victorian historian Thomas Carlyle, may have just become a whole lot more exciting.
The European Union has launched a push to include prostitution and the illegal drug trade when it calculates GDP.
GDP may not be the sexiest of topics on its own right. It stands for gross domestic product—the total value of goods and services produced and sold by a country every year.
The thought of calculations that big almost makes one feel bad for the economists crunching numbers behind the scenes. But now, those economists have an even harder job.
They are going to be interviewing gigolos and drug dealers to get a handle on how much those entrepreneurs earn every year.
No longer relegated to the dark streets of red light districts, sex and drugs are going to emerge from the woodwork after years spent swept under the rug.
The New York Times quotes Jose Roca, a representative of the National Association of Spanish Sex Clubs, who estimates that prostitution accounts for $27 billion of Spanish GDP every year. The government estimates a similar figure—about 18 billion euros.
According to The Times, requirements that countries calculate GDP including black market activity have long been on the books. But only a few countries made serious stabs at complying. Those included Germany, Italy, and (of course) the Netherlands, whose booming red light district and weed trade are a major tourist attraction.
A surge of new rules however, are now going to force all 28 of the countries in the European Union to try harder to count the black market.
The push may help the EU qualify economic fluctuations among European countries still struggling during the wake of the recession.